Skip to main content

Full text of "Mid country; writings from the heart of America"

See other formats










r 



• 




From the collection of the 



z n 

o Prelinger 
v JJibrary 



San Francisco, California 
2008 



Uhd 



WRITINGS FROM THE 



With an Introduction 
byB.A. BOTKIN 



i^^NEW YORK - SOLE DISTRIBUTORS IN 
STOVVell THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA 




r i 

Kjyuraru 



HEART OF AMERICA 

Edited by 

Lowry C. Wimberly 



UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS 
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA - 1945 




COPYRIGHT 1945 

by 

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS 

All rights reserved 



Printed in the United States of America by 
The University of Nebraska 



The Contents 



Introduction - 

The Source Story 

The Longhorn Blood Call 

Her Quaint Honour Story 

America's Mythology Poetry 

The Buck in the Hills Story 

The Passing of the Timber Beast 

The People's Choice Story 

For an Apple Grower Poetry 

Sandhill Sundays - 

After the Custer Battle 

The Honey House Story 

The Country Doctor Story 

O Pioneers! Poetry - 

Buffalo in the Judith Basin: 1883 

A Rural Community Story 

Invocation Poetry - 

Tasting the Mountain Spring Poetry 

The Whistle Story - 



B. A. Botkin xi 

Katherine Anne Porter 1 

J. Frank Dobie 6 

Caroline Gordon 21 

Mark Van Doren 37 

Walter Van Tilburg Clark 42 

James Stevens 52 

Erskine Caldwell 59 

Paul Engle 67 

Mari Sandoz 71 

Albert J. Partoll 81 

Mary King 86 

Ivan Beede 104 

John Peale Bishop 114 

Pat T.Tucker 115 

Ruth Suckow 118 

Stephen Vincent Benet 140 

Loren C. Eiseley 141 

Eudora Welty 142 



vn 



The Duel With Yellow Hand - - - Stanley Vestal 147 

Shadow of a Green Olive Tree Story - Warren Beck 158 

The Trout Map Poetry Allen Tate 166 

A Partnership With Death Story - - Vardis Fisher 168 

Arkansas Story Raymond Weeks 177 

Closing the Year Poetry - Alan Swallow 186 

The Colt Story Wallace Stegner 187 

Trespass Poetry Robert Frost 198 

They Set a Good Table - - Alberta Wilson Constant 199 

New Hope Meetinghouse Poetry - Edgar Lee Masters 209 

Lady Wildcat Play - Frederick Kleibacker 212 

The Storm Story Curtis Martin 225 

The Singing Snakes of the Karankawas Story 

Walter Prescott Webb 232 

Rank Hester's Hired Help Story - - - Jesse Stuart 236 

Indian Songs Poetry - Alice Henson Ernst 246 

Two Women and Hog-Back Ridge Story 

Melvin Van den Bark 248 

Rooster Fight Wayne Gard 263 

Kansas City Poetry - - - John Gould Fletcher 268 

Four Eagle Story - - - Elizabeth H. Middleton 269 

Bayou Idyl Poetry - John L. Westbrook 280 

viii 



Good-bye to Cap'm John Story - - - S. S. Field 282 

Backwoods Humor - Clyde W. Wilkinson 293 

Reverdy Story Jessamyn West 307 

Ranchers Poetry - Maurice Lesemann 314 

Indians in Blue Jeans - Alice Marriott 315 

Not Darkness, but in Shadows Story - - Fred Shaw 319 

Stone Country Poetry - Verne Bright 332 

After Branding Calves Poetry - - Conrad Pendleton 335 

The Snake Without a Friend - - Virginia Duncan 337 

Earthy-Ann Ruby Pickens Tartt 343 

Wyoming Has Wild Horses Poetry - C. A. Millspaugh 350 

Homestead Woman - Pearl Price Robertson 351 

The Cloud Puncher Story - - William Cunningham 361 

Oilfield Idyl Story - Daniel M. Garrison 366 

The Death of Tom Mix Poetry - - E. S. Forgotson 371 

Fern Seed — For Peace Ruth Bass 372 

The Beast Story - Katharine Shattuck 381 

The Last Corn Shock Poetry - Glenn Ward Dresbach 389 

The Funeral Story - William March 390 

Wolf Hunt A. J. Broadwater 399 

Mountain Sibyl Nancy Clemens 403 

ix 



The Country Is the Land Poetry - James Franklin Lewis 407 

Washing Up for Supper Poetry Carol Ely Harper 408 

Timber Justice Story - - Robert Swift 410 

Good-bye, Margery Story - August Derleth 414 

Colorado Poems Poetry - - - - Will Gibson 419 

A Thresher's Tale Story Rudolph Umland 424 

Renter Poetry J ose P h Langland 428 

Uncle Tige Benedict Story - John W. Wilson 429 

'Gator-Tail Steak - Frank Thone 434 

High Tension Story Harry G. Huse 438 

East Wind Poetry David Cornel Dejong 450 

God Made Little Apples Story Meridel Le Sueur 451 

Coursing the Coyote - Aubrey Neasham 464 

The Fence Row Poetry - - - James Hearst 467 

You Should See Shettles - - - Kathleen Sutton 468 

Big Brother Story - - - Charlie May Simon 472 

Stampede J- Eve » s H ^ 478 

The Red Table Story - - Jack M. MacDonald 483 

They Shall Arise Story - - - Grant Marshall 492 

- 495 
Acknowledgments - 

497 
Notes on the Authors - 

x 




Introduction 



B. A. Botkin 



MID COUNTRY — the land between the mountains — sprawls the 
gigantic length and breadth of the prairie and the Great Plains 
from the Appalachians to the Rockies, from the Lakes to the Gulf. 
Mainly flat or rolling and treeless — "a sea of grass with islands of 
wood" — it is, however, not one region but many regions in one, the 
meeting place of North, East, South, and West, all shading imper- 
ceptibly into one another. For the dividing line between regions is 
not a sharp, hard and fast one. As one drives into Colorado from 
Kansas, one feels rather than sees the plains rise into mountains and 
the Middle West change to West. And driving East through Ohio 
one is constantly being reminded of New England. Culturally as 
well as geographically, Mid Country is trans-America as well as mid- 
America, the crossroads of the continent. Its very centrality and inland 
remoteness have kept it typically American. It is both source and 
product. Its vast inland empire teems with railroads, highways, and 
inland waterways, with mines, mills, factories, oil fields, and refineries, 
with grain elevators, stockyards, and packing plants. And its fabulous 
amplitude is held together by plowland and pastureland, tractor and 
combine, windmill and silo, barbed wire and fenceposts. 

For all its apparent dead-level uniformity, Mid Country is full of 
contrasts and extremes. It is frontier and section, rich land and poor 
land, boom town and ghost town, homesteader and sharecropper, ex- 
ploiter and exploited, beautiful and ugly, a hope and a despair. It is 
rural and small-town America at its best and worst. Here monotony 
and drudgery go hand in hand with realism and reform. On the one 
hand, it has given us Main Streets and Babbitts, Dust Bowl and Okies. 
On the other hand, it gives us open country and human relationships 
where we "touch the core of things." 



XI 



xii B. A. Botkin 

For those who write about it, Mid Country is, first of all, the lay of 
the land, the look and the feel of it— "something in that to stir the 
deepest feeling in a man." It may be the Nebraska sandhills — "that 
country of soft, yellow, shifting undulations." It may be the "wide 
windswept Montana prairie ... its relentlessness, its silence, and its 
sameness ... the tawny spread of its sundrenched ridges, its shimmering 
waves of desert air." Mid Country is also the cultural landscape and 
the way the land is used — corn belt, hog belt, wheat belt, cotton belt, 
citrus belt. And Mid Country is people living on and off the land — 
"the face of a prairie woman . . . dried like the soil . . . and the prairie 
eye that sees without seeing, that adjusts to distances to ward off mad- 
ness." Mid Country is all this and something more. It is history and 
tradition, a political and economic system, culture and character. It 
is the land and the people interwoven in such a way that each has left 
its mark on the other. 

The plains, river, forests, land, farmer, cattle, the wife, children, 
anonymous on the plain, and yet forever known, the mark of them 
on every fencepost like some secret sign, upon the color and sweat 
of the wooden shack, upon the draining sand, upon the corn shocks 
in the fall. (Meridel Le Sueur, "The American Way.") 



Because Mid Country is a place, it cannot be a "nowhere; an abstract 
nowhere," as Glenway Wescott once called it. And yet, as he says, 
"It is a certain climate, a certain landscape; and beyond that, a state 
of mind of people born where they do not like to live." This mental 
and intangible factor is something we must reckon with in defining or 
describing a region. "To some," according to the National Resources 
Committee report on Regional Factors in National Planning and De- 
velopment, "it may have no more substance than a nostalgia for a 
landscape of prosperous farms checkerboarded by a rectangular grid 
of roads, of white houses and big red barns, and elm-and-maple shaded 
villages." 

Perhaps the best way to understand a region is in terms of its people. 
From its pattern of human relationships as well as from the awareness 
of its scientists, artists, and ordinary citizens a region emerges as a 
"collective work of art," in Lewis Mumford's term. If we would know 
what Mid Country is really like, we must go to its inhabitants and 
interpreters. Now if we could all go about Mid Country listening to 



Introduction xiu 

the people talk, we might not need the scientists and the artists. But, 
failing that, we can hear the people talking in the pages of this book. 

For regional writing, like all literature, begins at the folk level with 
people talking, people who are not writers but who have a story to tell 
and know how to tell it in their own way, which is, after all, the most 
effective way. "Never having made an effort to write a story," begins 
the author of "Wolf Hunt," "I don't expect this will read very good. 
However, I have had some great experiences. . . ." The second stage 
of regional writing begins when personal experience and folk-say give 
way to interpretation and local color, and a writer writes out of love or 
hatred of the region as well as knowledge of it rather than simply out of 
love of life. Finally, as Haniel Long has put it, there is the stage where 
"awareness of anything picturesque in the surroundings ceases" and 
the writer "goes to all the horizons" and utters the "speech of the spirit 
confronting destiny in particularized surroundings." 

In every region writers tend to form groups, for the purpose of shop 
talk and mutual admiration and criticism. Sometimes, as in the case of 
two Missouri writers, Jack Conroy and H. H. Lewis, they write ex- 
pansively to each other without having met. More often than not, they 
organize clubs and writers' conferences, get hold of a mimeograph 
machine or a job press, and start a magazine. Many such groups and 
magazines have sprung up in state universities, under the leadership 
and tutelage of some faculty member whose self-appointed mission it 
is not only to teach the young laurel to shoot but also to see that it has 
roots. Eventually the luckiest of these magazines are sponsored and 
handsomely printed by the university presses, which have been called 
our best regional presses. 

Such a regional magazine is a "little" or experimental magazine in 
a true sense. It not only addresses a limited audience but also culti- 
vates a small plot of ground, its own back-yard. Thus it renders a 
threefold service. It serves the writers of the region by giving them 
an outlet, an audience, and a rallying point, perhaps enabling them to 
write where they live and to live where their material is. It serves the 
region by keeping writers at home and focussing the attention of both 
writers and readers on regional sources and problems, by developing 
the cultural resources of the region as well as their creative expression. 
And it serves literature by fostering good writing and reading. 

Many magazines have come and gone in Mid Country. The eldest 
of those represented here— Poetry— was founded in 1912. Many were 



x i v B. A. Botkin 

born of the depression, when regular markets were closed to young 
writers. Many have been advance-guard and left-wing. But the older 
and more typical and enduring of the Mid Country magazines were 
part of the Midwestern literary renaissance that produced Poetry— 
an indigenous movement for both cultural self-determination and de- 
centralization of publishing. Their very names— the Midland, the 
Frontier, Prairie Schooner— art expressive of the region and its spirit. 

Through critical articles, book reviews, literary news, history, and 
folklore, as well as through short stories, sketches, poems, and essays, 
these magazines serve to unite the writers and readers of the region 
in a community of interest which is the basis of all regional conscious- 
ness. At the same time they have opened their pages to writers of other 
regions and have thus contributed to an interregional interest which 
is the basis of a national literature. A combination of literary work- 
shop and bush league, they have not only given many a young writer 
a start but have attracted the attention of the talent scouts, the anthol- 
ogists and the publishers, and have helped many Mid Country writers 
to acquire a national reputation. 

For those who live in Mid Country this sampling of Mid Country 
magazine writing will serve to deepen understanding and appreciation 
of one's own people and writers. For expatriates from Mid Country 
reading this book is like going back home. For all others it may serve 
to reveal the whole in the part. In any case it testifies to the variety and 
vitality of American literature as a literature of regions; to the healthi- 
ness and healthfulness of the provincial and amateur spirit in promot- 
ing honesty and resisting slickness; and to the fact that, whether we 
settle a region, write about it, or read about it, we bring to it as much 
as we take from it. 




The Source 

Katherine Anne Porter 



ONCE a year, in early summer, after school was closed and the 
children were to be sent to the farm, the grandmother began 
to long for the country. With an air of tenderness, as if she enquired 
after a favorite child, she would ask questions about the crops, 
wonder what kind of gardens the Negroes were making, how the 
animals were faring. She would remark now and then, "I begin to 
feel the need of a little change and relaxation, too," in a vague tone 
of reassurance, as if to say this did not mean that she intended for a 
moment really to relax her firm hold on family affairs. It was her 
favorite theory that change of occupation was one way, probably the 
best way, of resting. The three grandchildren would begin to feel the 
faint sure stirring of departure in the house ; her son, their father, would 
assume the air of careful patience which imperfectly masked his an- 
noyance at the coming upsets and inconveniences to be endured at the 
farm. "Now, Harry, now, Harry!" his mother would warn him, for 
she was never deceived by his manner; indeed, he never meant her to 
be; and she would begin trying to placate him by wondering falsely if 
she could possibly get away, after all, with so much yet to be done 
where she was. She looked forward with pleasure to a breath of 
country air. She always imagined herself as walking at leisure in the 
shade of the orchards watching the peaches ripen; she spoke with 
longing of clipping the rosebushes, or of tying up the trellised honey- 
suckle with her own hands. She would pack up her summer-weight 
skirts, her thin black-and-white basques, and would get out a broad- 
brimmed, rather battered straw shepherdess hat she had woven for 
herself just after the War. Trying it on, turning her head critically 
this way and that before the mirror, she would decide that it might do 
nicely for the sun and she always took it along, but never wore it. She 

1 



2 Katherine Anne Porter 

wore instead a stiffly starched white chambray bonnet, with a round 
crown buttoned on a narrow brim ; it sat pertly on the top of her head 
with a fly-away look, the long strings hanging stiffly. Underneath this 
headdress, her pale, tightly drawn, very old face looked out with 
stately calm. 

In the early spring, when the Indian cling peach-tree against the 
wall of the town house began to bloom, she would say, "I have planted 
five orchards in three states, and now I see only one tree in bloom." 
A soft, enjoyable melancholy would come over her; she would stand 
quite still for a moment looking at the single tree, representing all 
her beloved trees still blooming, flourishing, and preparing to bring 
forth fruit in their separate places. 

Leaving Aunt Nannie, who had been nurse to her children, in 
charge of the town house, she set out on her journey. 

If departure was a delightful adventure for the children, arriving 
at the farm was an event for Grandmother. Hinry came running to 
open the gate, his coal-black face burst into a grin, his voice flying 
before him: "Howdy-do, Miss Sophia Jane!" simply not noticing that 
the carryall was spilling over with other members of the family. The 
horses jogged in, their bellies jolting and churning, and Grandmother, 
calling out greetings in her feast-day voice, alighted, surrounded by 
her people, with the same flurry of travel that marked her journeys 
by train ; but now with an indefinable sense of homecoming, not to the 
house but to the black, rich soft land and the human beings living on 
it. Without removing her long veiled widow's bonnet, she would 
walk straight through the house, observing instantly that everything 
was out of order; pass out into the yards and gardens, silently glancing, 
making instant plans for changes; down the narrow path past the 
barns, with a glance into and around them as she went, a glance of 
firm and purposeful censure; and on past the canebrake to the left, 
the hayfields to the right, until she arrived at the row of Negro huts 
that ran along the bois-d'arc hedge. 

Stepping up with a pleasant greeting to all, which in no way prom- 
ised exemption from the wrath to come, she went into their kitchens, 
glanced into their meal barrels, their ovens, their cupboard shelves, 
into every smallest crevice and corner, with Littie and Dicey and Hinry 
and Bumper and Keg following, trying to explain that things was 
just a little out of shape right now because they'd had so much outside 



The Source 3 

work they hadn't just been able to straighten out the way they meant 
to; but they were going to get at it right away. 

Indeed they were, as Grandmother well knew. Within an hour 
someone would have driven away in the buckboard for so much lime 
for whitewash, so many gallons of kerosene oil, and so much carbolic 
acid and insect powder. Homemade lye soap would be produced from 
the washhouse, and the frenzy would begin. Every mattress cover 
was emptied of its corn husks and boiled, every little Negro on the 
place was set to work picking a fresh supply of husks, every hut was 
thickly whitewashed, bins and cupboards were scrubbed, every chair 
and bedstead was varnished, every filthy quilt was brought to light, 
boiled in a great iron wash-pot and stretched in the sun; and the 
uproar had all the special character of any annual occasion. The Negro 
women were put at making a fresh supply of shirts for the men and 
children, cotton dresses and aprons for themselves. Whoever wished 
to complain now seized his opportunity. Mister Harry had clean forgot 
to buy shoes for Hinry; look at Hinry: Hinry had been just like that, 
barefooted the livelong winter. Mister Miller (a red-whiskered man 
who occupied a dubious situation somewhere between overseer when 
Mister Harry was absent, and plain hired hand when he was present) 
had skimped them last winter on everything you could think of — not 
enough cornmeal, not half enough bacon, not enough wood, not 
enough of anything. Littie had needed a little sugar for her cawfy 
and do you think Mister Miller would let her have it? No. Mister 
Miller had said nobody needed sugar in their cawfy. Hinry said 
Mr. Miller didn't even take sugar in his own cawfy because he was 
just too stingy. Boosker, the three-year-old baby, had earache in 
January and Miz Carleton had come down and put lodnum in it and 
Boosker was acting like she was deef ever since. The black horse 
Mister Harry bought last fall had gone clean wild and jumped a 
barbed wire fence and tore his chest almost off and hadn't been any 
good from that time on. 

All these grievances and dozens like them had to be adjusted suit- 
ably; then Grandmother's attention was turned to the main house, 
which had to be overhauled completely. The big secretaries were 
opened and shabby old sets of Dickens, Scott, Thackeray, Dr. Johnson's 
dictionary, the volumes of Pope and Milton and Dante and Shake- 
speare were dusted off and closed up carefully again. Curtains came 
down in dingy heaps and went up again stiff and sweet-smelling; rugs 



4 Katherine Anne Porter 

were heaved forth in dusty confusion and returned flat and gay with 
flowers once more; the kitchen was no longer dingy and desolate but 
a place of heavenly order where it was tempting to linger. 

Next the barns and smokehouses and the potato cellar, the gardens 
and every tree or vine or bush must have that restoring touch upon it. 
For two weeks this would go on, with the grandmother a tireless, just, 
and efficient slave driver of every creature on the place. The children 
ran wild outside, but not as they did when she was not there. The 
hour came in each day when they were rounded up, captured, washed, 
dressed properly, made to eat what was set before them without giving 
battle, put to bed when the time came and no nonsense. . . . They 
loved their grandmother; she was the only reality to them in a world 
that seemed otherwise without fixed authority or refuge, since their 
mother had died so early that only the eldest girl remembered her 
vaguely; just the same they felt that Grandmother was a tyrant, and 
they wished to be free of her; so they were always pleased when, on a 
certain day, as a sign that her visit was drawing to an end, she would 
go out to the pasture and call her old saddle horse, Fiddler. 

He had been a fine, thorough-paced horse once, but he was now a 
weary, disheartened old hero, with grey whiskers on his jaw and chin, 
who spent his life nuzzling with pendulous lips for tender bits of grass 
or accepting sugar cautiously between his shaken teeth. He paid no 
attention to anyone but the grandmother. Every summer when she 
went to his field and called him, he came doddering up with almost a 
gleam in his filmy eyes. The two old creatures would greet each other 
fondly. The grandmother always treated her animal friends as if they 
were human beings temporarily metamorphosed, but not by this acci- 
dent dispensed from those duties suitable to their condition. She would 
have Fiddler brought around under her old sidesaddle — her little grand- 
daughters rode astride and she saw no harm in it, for them — and mount 
with her foot in Uncle Jimbilly's curved hand. Fiddler would re- 
member his youth and break into a stiff-legged gallop, and off she 
would go with her crepe bands and her old-fashioned riding skirt 
flying. They always returned at a walk, the grandmother sitting 
straight as a sword, smiling, triumphant. Dismounting at the horse- 
block by herself, she would stroke Fiddler on the neck before turning 
him over to Uncle Jimbilly, and walk away carrying her train grandly 
over her arm. 



The Source 5 

This yearly gallop with Fiddler was important to her; it proved her 
strength, her unabated energy. Any time now Fiddler might drop 
in his tracks, but she would not. She would say, "He's getting stiff in 
the knees," or "He's pretty short-winded this year," but she herself 
walked lightly and breathed as easily as ever, or so she chose to believe. 

That same afternoon or the next day, she would take her long- 
promised easy stroll in the 'orchards with nothing to do, her grand- 
children running before her and running back to her side: with noth- 
ing at all to do, her hands folded, her skirts trailing and picking up 
twigs, turning over little stones, sweeping a faint path behind her, her 
white bonnet askew over one eye, an absorbed fixed smile on her lips, 
her eyes missing nothing. This walk would usually end with Hinry 
or Jimbilly being dispatched to the orchards at once to make some 
trifling but indispensable improvement. 

It would then come over her powerfully that she was staying on 
idling when there was so much to be done at home. . . . There would 
be a last look at everything, instructions, advices, good-byes, blessings. 
She would set out with that strange look of leaving forever, and arrive 
at the place in town with the same air of homecoming she had worn 
on her arrival in the country, in a gentle flurry of greetings and felicita- 
tions, as if she had been gone for half a year. At once she set to work 
restoring to order the place which always proved to have gone some- 
what astray in her absence. 




The Longhorn Blood Call 

J. Frank Dobie 



Way down on Sam Bonello, 

Long time ago, 
Big blac\ bull run down in the meader, 

hong time ago. 
He pawed up dust and then he beller, 

hong time ago, 
Shoo\ his head and jarred the water, 

hong time ago. 
— Negro song of a long time ago, South Texas 

IN WINTERTIME the bulls kept apart, some individuals staying 
utterly alone, the others ranging together in small bunches, looking 
upon each other with lacklustre eye, hardly looking at cows at all, not 
one moved by the faintest intimation of a dream from the sources of 
their bullhood. But by the time the grass was up high enough to 
afford whole mouthfuls, even the draggiest old bull had the feeling 
that the sun rose for his particular benefit, while at the same time the 
"shelliest" old cow shed her poverty-bedraggled hair and came into 
ambitions that made her forget the misery of suckling a calf on weak 
weed-tips in front of a wet February norther. 

A seasonable spring was becoming summer in some year before 1890. 
Any ranch in the southern half of Texas might be taken as the setting, 
but to please my own memories we'll particularize one on Ramirena 
Creek in the county of Live Oak, where the wild turkeys were already 
finding chilipiquin peppers, and mustang grapes were big and hard 
enough for nigger-shooter bullets. 

A brindle bull, six or seven years old — at the apex of his prowess — 
had been hanging around the Ramirez waterhole for hours. His 



The Longhorn Blood Call 7 

powerful neck showed a great bulge just behind the head. He had a 
big dewlap accenting his primeval origin. He had drunk but was 
by no means waterlogged, for he belonged to a breed that knew what 
it was to drink only once every three days and then walk directly for 
hours back to grass. Overeating or overdrinking would never allow 
those powerfully muscled foreparts and lithe flanks. 

Three or four bulls were among the cattle, perhaps a hundred and 
fifty head, resting in the vicinity. But Brindle paid little attention to 
them. They knew their places and they regarded him as impersonally 
as did the cows, heifers, calves, and steers. A bull does not cut out a 
bunch of cows, herd them together and claim them for his own as a 
stallion claims mares, fighting all other stallions away. His promiscuity 
destroys loyalty in both himself and the cows. He is free of the jealousy 
that goes with loyalty. He has no cohesive following. The dominion 
of a champion fighter of the range was territorial, the other bulls in 
that territory recognizing his prowess but being free to go their own 
ways with any cows that showed them favor. 

A majority of the cattle this day at the Ramirez waterhole were 
lying down or standing in the shade, out of sight of Brindle, chewing 
their cuds. Yet all, by the way they turned their heads and now and 
then ceased their cud-chewing to listen, indicated an interest in him 
— the acknowledged bull of their woods. The woods consisted of 
prairie land running into and islanded with thorny thickets, and of 
noble live oaks overtopping mesquites, hackberries, granjeno, brazil, 
and other growth along the creek bottom. 

Brindle had been calling plenty of attention to himself. He seemed 
mad through and through, though it was not in his nature to vent his 
rage — a rage sullen and reserved — on just any member of society that 
got in his way. Utterly oblivious for the time of the world animate 
and inanimate, male and female, around him, he went on nursing his 
wrath to keep it warm against some contester worthy of his mettle who 
might emerge from beyond the rim of his acknowledged domain. 

Having taken a position on a rise of open ground perhaps a hundred 
yards up from the waterhole, he had for a long while been pawing 
dirt from an old bull-scrape in the soft soil — a sink about like a buffalo 
wallow. He lifted the dirt with his forefeet so that it went high up 
in the air and fell in part upon his own back. While pawing, he often 
stopped to hook one of his horns — the "master horn" as Spanish bull- 
fighters call it — into the ground, goring down to a kind of clayish 



8 J. Frank Dobie 

damp that stuck to the tip. He even hooked both horns in, one at a 
time, and rubbed his shoulder against the bank of the wallow. At 
times the uplifted dirt from his flexible ankles came down in clumps 
and dust on tossing horns. The powerful lungs in his body, free from 
choking fat, bellowsed out streams of breath that sprayed particles of 
earth, either on the ground or in the air, away from his nostrils. Now, 
earth daubing his horns, matting his shaggy frontlet, and covering his 
back from head to tail, he was a spectacle. 

But pawing and dirt hooking had been nothing compared to his 
vocal goings-on. When he came in to water, he was talking to him- 
self, his truculent head swaying with the rhythm of his walk and the 
weight of his thick horns, bases four or five inches in diameter. Hoarse 
and deep, like thunder on the horizon, his mumbling talk went uh-uh- 
uh-uh, four deliberate notes, the last a low-descending jerk, in four 
steps. This was his war march. Often he paused the throaty nh-uh- 
uh-uhing and halted to raise his head in a loud, high, defiant challenge 
that might be described as a basso-scream, combining a bellow from 
the uttermost profundities with a shriek high and foreign. Beside 
the waterhole a fat two-year-old calico-colored heifer craved his at- 
tention, but only by a few curls and astounding twists of his upward- 
pointing nose after he smelled of her did he seem aware of her ex- 
istence. His mind was on other things. 

Thus now, pawing up dirt, lunging his horn in as if to rip out the 
guts of the earth, bawling, bellowing, muttering, shattering the air, 
Brindle was sending his threats, his oaths of revenge, his challenge to 
earth and hell too over the hills, against the echoing caliche cliffs on 
the far side of the Ramirena, and up a little canyon that emptied into 
the creek just above the waterhole. As his fury waxed, he now and 
then let out in quick succession a series of far-carrying fast bawls agon- 
izing to human senses, for they seemed to be tearing the very lungs out 
of the bawler. 

Then at what seemed the zenith of this ecstasy of rage he heard 
something that infuriated the bottom-most reserve of passion. 

"He shook his head and jarred the water." What he heard was an 
answer to his prayer, a response to his invitation, a defiance of his 
boasted power, a mockery of his challenge. The sounds were coming 
from the prairie divide between Ramirena and Lagarto Creeks, the 
eager-for-battle maker of them having been lured from his trail to 
another wateringhole three or four miles away. He could not be seen 



The Longhorn Blood Call 9 

yet, but he was drawing nearer. Uh-uh-uh-uh, and then mighty throat- 
ings, growling a deep and hollow roar. 

At length he came into view, a glossy dunnish brown merging into 
black — the golondrino (swallow) color — white speckles and splotches 
on his rump and a washed-out copper line down his back. His thick 
horns, like Brindle's, were set forward for tossing a lobo wolf into the 
air or ripping any kind of belly open as effectively as that scimitar- 
curved plebeian Mexican knife called saca tripas (gets the guts). 

It was a belief that the bulls kept their horns sharpened for bloody 
work by rubbing them against trees and brush and whetting them in 
the ground. A hundred yards off the golondrino bull stopped and 
went to pawing dirt, answering bellow for bellow. He not only gored 
the earth but he thrust his horns into the tough stems of a cenizo bush 
and, jerking and twisting his head from side to side, broke the bush 
to stubble. He came nearer, but the preliminaries were long-drawn- 
out, each warrior practicing his thrusts, each seeming to wait for the 
other to take upon himself the war-guilt of the first assault, yet neither 
one wearing himself out with exercise. The bullying was by no means 
froth; back of it was immense reserve. 

Brindle emerged from his wallow. Then he and Golondrino began 
to circle each other, each fronting his antagonist and maneuvering for 
an opening. They halted perhaps four yards apart. Meantime the 
other cattle had congregated, keeping well out of the way, and with 
sympathetic bawlings were adding to the atmosphere. Cattle could 
be seen stringing in at a trot from faraway, attracted like boys to a 
dog fight. The big steers, which often seem to imagine themselves 
bulls — and which no bull ever notices — were especially interested. 

Now the time for talk by the champions was over. The object of 
each was to get a side entrance for his horns, but each was a master 
of defense. At the simultaneous lunge that brought them together, 
the impact of skull against skull and horn against horn made an air- 
shattering report like that when an iron-headed freight car is rammed 
into the iron of another car. Then, heads locked, the bulls stood 
planted in the soil, neither giving way to the other. Shoulder muscles 
stood out like bronze studies; massive neck thews rose almost to the 
height of humps on Brahma bulls; backs bowed tensely. One bull 
and then the other tried a quick side-step to unbalance his opponent 
and get in a side swipe, but neither could get the advantage. With 
horns that were both weapon and shield, they parried strokes in such 



JO J. Frank Dobie 

rapidity that the clashes could hardly have been counted. They backed 
and rushed again and again. The dust they raised went up into the 
air like a signal smoke. The ground they fought over was torn up as 
if giants with spikes and spades on their feet had wrestled there. 

The shovings, the head-on lunges, the dodges, the impregnable stands 
went on and on. The heat of the strain brought slobber to mouths, 
and tongues lolled out. Eyes, bloodshot, bulged forth. Once Brindle's 
horn brought blood from a tear— which, however, he was not allowed 
to take advantage of— in Golondrino's brisket. The smell of blood was 
caught by an old blue steer among the surrounding cattle and the 
blood cry went up and volumed in a discordant chorus. The throng 
of cattle now congregated was as uneasy and excited as a million robins 
gathered to migrate from the cedar brakes of the Colorado River to 
their summer homes on the Atlantic coast two thousand miles north. 
A coyote came to peer from behind a prickly pear bush up the ridge. 
The sun went down. The bulls backed off from each other and 
pawed up dust. Then with hearts still pumping against bursting 
lungs, they clashed again. Darkness came. 

Often the battle was a draw, ending only from sheer exhaustion on 
both sides. Once a bull realized he was outdone, he backed as if shot 
out of a catapult, wheeled with a loud snuff, and ran for life. If he 
ran fast enough, his opponent could at best merely hook him in the 
rump— a spur to added swiftness. Let the victor get a side run at him, 
then he might knock him down and gore the vitals out of him. Death, 
while not frequent, was sometimes the end of the battle. 

Against an old bull a young one had the advantage of endurance; 
cunning acquired from many experiences often gave victory to a wan- 
ing bull pitted against some youngster with more strength and bravery 
than science. If this youngster was not killed, his day would come. 
He was acquiring experience. The whole activity of a high-grade 
Hereford bull, despite his big horns, is begetting calves; at least half 
the activity of the Longhorn range bull was in battle. Fighting was 
the breath of life to him. As the Spaniard would say, that is what 
God gave him his testicles for. 

Despite front attacks, I have never heard of a bull's hooking his 
opponent's eye out— a tribute to parrying powers. A veteran vaquero 
told me that he once saw a wild bull gore another through the top of 
the neck. The horn went clear through that thickest part of the bull's 
thick hide. It was so deeply twisted in and the hide was so unyielding 



The honghorn Blood Call 11 

that for a considerable time the bulls were fastened together not unlike 
bucks with interlocked antlers. 

Although it is not the nature of cattle to graze and move about at 
night like horses, the wild Longhorns were much more given to night 
activity than domesticated varieties. When bulls fought at night, then 
their bellowing and roaring, the bawling of other cattle, the hoarse 
howls of lobo wolves aroused by hope for a victim as they restlessly 
circled out from the fighters, and the long-drawn-out cries of coyotes 
beyond the lobos gave the prairie a truly weird character. 

It is impossible to convey sounds in print — the wild, raucous hair- 
raising sounds made by the old range bulls; their growls; their threats 
loud and deep that seemed to blast the earth; their uplifted notes carry- 
ing like the finest coyote bark; their expressions of pride and fury. 
But imagine them coming down a thicket or over the prairie grass 
in the deep night. 

All you can do is imagine. "The Spanish bull that used to water 
at the seep spring at the foot of the hill no longer makes the canyon 
roar with the echoes of his bellowing." 

When a herd of cattle was rounded up from a wide-spreading range, 
thus bringing into proximity bulls that were strangers to one another, 
each of them a big frog in his own little puddle, there was sure to be 
raging and roaring, and fighting was inevitable unless the opponents 
were separated before they actually clashed horns. "Prayer meeting" 
was the name an old Negro hand used to give these carryings-on of the 
bulls. "Jes' listen to 'um testifying" he'd say. A "prayer meeting" of 
this kind made working in a herd both difficult and dangerous. Any 
responsible cowman would break it up before zeal ran too high. 

At one fight that started in a herd, John Rigby saw a cow get in 
the way just at the moment the bulls simultaneously rushed at each 
other. One rammed his horns into her belly from one side and one 
from the other. She was lifted high up and came down dying. 

On One-armed Jim Reed's Double Mountain Fork Ranch about 
1880, two Longhorn bulls that had been fighting for an hour drew 
apart from each other while a Mexican driving three loose horses 
came by. A young greenhorn horse got in between the bulls just as 
they started to clash again. One of the bulls ripped into him, drawing 
out a fold of entrails on his horn. The Mexican tried to daub up the 
wound with horse manure — a favorite remedy — but the horse died. 

The worst danger of a fight was when one of the bulls decided to 



12 J. Frank Dobie 

quit. His sole purpose then was to get away. Running from his op- 
ponent, he would have his eyes and attention on the brute behind him, 
trusting to his own power to get through or over any obstacle that 
might arise in front of him. Not many men had the foolhardiness to 
try to ride in to separate the fighters; for though a man might stop 
the fight, he was liable to be in the way of the flight. I know one man 
who was working on horseback with some cattle a short distance off 
from two engaged bulls, not keeping an eye on them, when suddenly 
one broke away and rammed into the horse, killing it and crippling 
the man for life. Other such instances could be adduced. 

Ask any old-time range man of the south country to name the quick- 
est animal he has ever known. He won't say a cutting horse, a polo 
pony, a wildcat, a striking rattlesnake. He doesn't know the duck 
hawk. He will say a Longhorn bull. Some other bulls are quick; 
many breeds fight, even the Polled Angus. But none of them can bawl, 
bellow, mutter, and rage like the bulls of Spanish breed, and none can 
move with such swiftness. They are in the bull rings of Spain, Mexico, 
and the Argentine today because they are the greatest fighting bulls 
of the world. 

The bull fight the Texas range people delighted in was that between 
equals on the range. Like scattered cattle, riders were often called to 
the battles from afar. Boys, usually without sanction from the profit- 
lusting cattle owners, would drive a proven champion from his range 
to another in quest of a fight. On Sunday sometimes quite an aggre- 
gation of boys and men would gather for a prearranged combat, cham- 
pions being driven from distant areas to some watering place, where 
other cattle could add to the show. Voices as well as fighting power 
were highly regarded. At branding time any fighting cow's bull-calf 
that demonstrated bravado, alacrity, strength, and lusty lungs would 
be branded and let loose uncastrated to make a fighting bull, the pos- 
sibility of round steaks on the hind legs of his progeny having nothing 
to do with the selection. 

If a bull decided he would not be driven from his range, no matter 
for what purpose, that was an end of the matter; but the herd instinct 
usually made him tractable in the company of other cattle. Yet not 
always. On the Stoner Ranch in the Victoria country there used to 
be a bull named Frank Swift. He was called after the man who had 
raised him, an individual with the habit of swallowing at one gulp a 
whole handful of the fiery little red Mexican peppers. Frank Swift 



The Longhorn Blood Call 13 

was in color a dark dun running into white. Every once in a while 
he would be put in a herd bound for the shipping pens at Victoria, but 
he never got there. When he was ready to turn back, he turned ; and 
the only way to stop him would have been to shoot him. Of course 
his horns might have been chopped off, and then he might have been 
necked to some powerful lead ox and dragged to the pens. After 
such punishment he would hardly have been worth the freight. Once 
Frank Swift traveled to within sight of the pens, and the cowboys 
thought he was on his way sure this time to make canned beef. Then 
he changed his mind about taking another step forward. He was the 
champion fighter and bellower of the country, and these virtues saved 
his life. 

The horn of a fighting bull has the penetrating power of a spike 
driven by a sledge hammer. "Many times," says Ernest Hemingway 
in his treatise on bulls and bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon, "I 
have seen a bull attack the inch-thick wooden planks of the barrera 
with his horns, or horn rather, for he uses either the one or the other, 
and splinter the planks into bits. There is in the bull ring museum 
at Valencia, a heavy iron stirrup that a bull perforated with a horn 
stroke to the depth of four inches." 

Hemingway cites a Spanish work called Toros Celebres "which 
chronicles the manner of dying and the feats of some three hundred 
and twenty-two pages of celebrated bulls" of the bull ring. Such a 
volume might be compiled on celebrated fighting bulls of the Long- 
horn range — lineal descendants and collateral kinsmen of the bull-ring 
breed. 

They did not fight as cornered creatures forced to exercise the in- 
stinct for self-preservation. Afraid of nothing on earth, their bravery 
was almost unearthly. They joyed in combat with each other and 
sometimes sought combat with other beasts and with man himself. 
Nat Straw, the great grizzly bear hunter of New Mexico, told me that 
he was in the Black Range when cattle, Longhorns from Texas, were 
introduced in that region. Then, he said, the grizzly bear — ursus 
horribilis — met the first living beasts, the bulls, they had ever known 
that would not give way to them. 

Illustrative of the combats that took place, I will tell what my good 
friend Jack (N. Howard) Thorp, compiler of Songs of the Cowboys 
and author of that delightful book Tales of the Chuc\ Wagon, told me. 



14 J. Frank Dobie 

Along in the 'nineties, he said, while he was working with the Circle 
Bar outfit in New Mexico, he and another cowboy were sent to a sign 
camp near the mouth of the Sacramento River for a bunch of saddle 
horses. They were chousing the horses up the bed of the river and 
were about to turn them into a trail topping out on a mesa, when they 
saw a bull standing near the water at the trail entrance. He was a 
Longhorn, light red in color, about six years old. Both men were 
familiar with him, for each had more than once given him the trail 
as he came down to water. 

"As we rode around him now," Jack Thorp related, "and saw him 
standing so quiet, we noticed one eye was gone and a great patch of 
hide and hair was hanging down from his back just behind the 
shoulders. His foreparts were badly clawed. Both horns were cov- 
ered with dried blood. The claw marks showed he had been mixed 
up with something besides another bull, and we were guessing what 
it might be. 

"About halfway up the steep trail was a flat — a little bench — where 
the trail made a sharp turn. At this point the horses ahead of us 
snorted and broke away into the brush. Jumping ahead to turn them 
back, we noticed how the shin-oak over a big patch of ground had 
been broken down and the earth torn up. After turning the horses 
back, we investigated. A hundred feet or so away to the north of the 
trail bend, partly across a fallen log, lay a monstrous grizzly, his en- 
trails strung out on the ground and his hair matted with dried blood. 
The bull, even if he didn't come off unmarked, had very plainly horned 
this grizzly bear to death. Yes, that Longhorn bull got all right, but 
being one-eyed kind of cramped his style." 

Back in the 'eighties a dun line-backed bull on the Cross S range 
in the brush country of Texas achieved a wide reputation. Like cer- 
tain other notable individuals of his stripe, he would waylay trails 
and attack horsemen from the rear. One time, Jake English swears, 
he was riding along on a paint horse close to a thicket when the dun 
bull rushed upon him and ripped the guts out of the paint almost 
before horse or man knew the bull was in the vicinity. Unhurt, Jake 
English climbed a little tree. The tree went to falling and Jake thought 
his time had come, but the bull at this juncture made off. This bull 
had been roped several times, but every time a rope was put on him 
he managed to charge the horse so that the rope had to be cut. He 
had, it is claimed, worn out four rawhide riatas strung on him and 



The Longhorn Blood Call 15 

had killed ten horses when he finally took up with some milk cows 
and came to the pen of a rancher who recognized him and shot him 
dead. 

I know that this account by Tom East of the King Ranch is true. 
While vaqueros were cleaning up a big pasture of the Norias Ranch 
— a subdivision of the King Ranch holdings — they found that an out- 
law bull was watering at a certain well. He was one of the old-time 
brown breed with a yellow stripe down his back. Reading sign, the 
vaqueros learned that the bull habitually approached the water trough 
by a trail leading under a live oak tree. One evening two of them 
went to the well before watering time, hid their horses in brush a con- 
siderable distance away from the trail, tied them fast, took ropes and 
climbed up in the tree with the idea of roping the bull when he should 
pass underneath. After waiting a good while, expecting every minute 
to see the bull, they heard a horse shriek and other sounds of commo- 
tion. Rushing to their horses, they saw the bull goring one to death, 
the other one already dead. The bull had smelled these animals and, 
knowing from experience that they carried his enemies, had rushed 
upon them. A day or two later a vaquero shot the bull — the only 
form of conquest he would submit to. His dagger-sharp black horns 
are still at Las Norias. 

Some few bulls seemed to be positive man-haters. One of them 
might charge a campfire, the sign of man. Years ago a man-hating 
bull ranged in the vicinity of the Fronteriza Mine in mountains facing 
the Rio Grande on the Mexico side. He was a blend of gold, brown, 
and black colors — the josco-golondrino. At the base of his neck he 
had an enormous hump; curly thick hair from his forehead almost 
covered his eyes. 

One day a Mexican pastor — goatherder — was coming into the Tinaja 
de los Alamos driving a burro loaded with provisions when this bull, 
loitering at the waterhole, saw him. Immediately he charged, killing 
both burro and man. As sign was afterward read, he smeared himself 
with the man's blood and caused a great commotion among the other 
cattle. During days that followed he returned several times to the 
waterhole, trampling the remains of the man and hooking them about 
but paying no attention to the dead burro. This account comes from 
Don Alberto Guajardo of Piedras Negras, who at the time was ranch- 
ing in the Fronteriza country and eventually shot the bull, using more 
than twenty .30-30 bullets on him before he brought him down. 



16 J. Frank Dobie 

"On skinning him," Don Alberto wrote me, "I observed that he had 
several bullets in the hide and flesh near his left ear. I deduced that 
other hunters had tried to kill him. Perhaps for this reason he was 
so spiteful towards man." 

Yet range bulls killed very few men. Even in Texas, where, ac- 
cording to the old saying, there used to be more cows and less milk 
than anywhere else on earth, the number of people gored by Longhorn 
bulls over a period of a hundred years was probably less than the 
number gored by Jersey bulls in recent decades. Sam Allen, who 
owned and handled hundreds of thousands of Longhorns, is said to 
have offered ten thousand dollars to the widow of any man working 
for him killed by a bull. The offer may have added to the bravery 
of some of his hands. He never had to make it good. 

Some cowboys would get in a pen with a fighting bull and dare 
him by making feints with a hat or a ducking jacket, as a matador 
uses his cape in the bull ring. Morris Mack, a Negro of the San Ber- 
nard, would squat down in the pen with any bull that raged. "Bull 
won't know what you is when you squat," Morris Mack explained. 
"Then he'll be scairt." Maybe so. One old rawhide I knew would 
get down on his all-fours and paw up dirt, mocking with bellowings 
the bull in front of him. He was a curiosity to man as well as to beast. 

A man on horseback charged by a bull couldn't squat or paw up 
dirt. There are accounts of how bulls down in the border country 
used to walk out in front of a herd of cattle that had just been thrown 
together and dare horsemen to enter. Sometimes they would stand 
between the herd and horsemen, "guarding it like stallions." 

Ernest Hemingway discredits the popular idea that a bull charges 
with eyes shut, whereas a cow keeps hers open. Nevertheless, many 
men experienced in handling fierce cattle have been more leery of a 
fighting cow in a pen than of a fighting bull. 

Many a Longhorn cow would not wait for the drop of a hat to 
fight. She was all pluck and vinegar, as ready as a fighting cock for 
the chance to use her spurs. She would fight a circular saw, fight 
"six yoke of oxen, hired man and a breaking plow," fight anything. 
If she was bogged down and a man pulled her out and then "tailed 
her up" — helping her from the rear to rise on her forelegs — the. first 
wobble she made after getting on her feet was in an attempt to hook 
the man. The bravest bulls came from cows just as brave, not only in 
defending their calves but in standing off pursuers and often from the 



The Longhorn Blood Call 17 

spirit of pure aggression. But of course, no cow has the strength of a 
bull. Cows do not fight bulls, as the females of most species fight 
the males. 

Jack Thorp, who told of the bull that killed a grizzly, was driving 
years ago with his wife from Albuquerque to Santa Fe in one of 
Henry Ford's earliest models, the foreparts trimmed brilliantly with 
brass. The car was laboring up a steep mountain, radiator boiling, 
hugging the bank of a road so narrow that cars could pass each other 
only at bends, when Jack saw, almost falling over herself as she tore 
down the road, an old Longhorn cow — one of several thousand from 
the Terrazas herds in Chihuahua that had been turned loose in that 
country. There was no room to get out of her way. She did not 
propose to get out of anybody's way. She hooked one horn into the 
radiator and the other under it, raised the front part of the car up and 
struggled until the rear end hung in the bank. Only after water boiled 
out on her head did she disengage herself. Then she high-tailed it — 
"the only Longhorn," Jack Thorp says, "I ever knew to take a licking." 

In talking of bulls I have dwelt long on their wonderful utterances. 
No wild animal or domestic either that I know of — nor lion, dog, 
horse, or bird — has as many vocal tones as the Longhorn. In com- 
parison, the bulls and cows of highly bred varieties of cattle are voice- 
less. The cow of the Longhorns has one moo for her new-born calf, 
another for it when it is older, one to tell it to come to her side, and 
another to tell it to stay hidden in the tall grass where she has secured 
it. Moved by amatory feelings, she has a low audible breath of yearn- 
ing for the bull. In anger she can run a gamut. If her calf has died 
or been otherwise taken from her, she seems to be turning her insides 
out into long, sharp, agonizing bawls. I have heard steers make sim- 
ilar sounds. They seemed to be in the utmost agony of expressing 
something so poignant to them that the utterance meant more than 
life and would be willingly paid for by death. 

The bawling of cattle in the agony of thirst used to be all too familiar 
a sound on ranches before wells and tanks became plentiful and the 
gasoline engine was devised to pump water when the wind fails to 
blow. Day and night, day and night, it would go on around empty 
water troughs — the moans getting weaker in time, though the endur- 
ance of a cow brute in keeping up a continual bawling would make 
insignificant the record of any long-winded filibuster that ever held 
the floor of Congress. Cattle walking a fence in futile anxiety to get 



18 J. Frank Dobie 

back to a range they have been driven from make the same distressful, 
relentless sounds. 

There is something almost refreshing in the lusty bawl of a big bull 
calf being branded. The "gosling stage" voice of a bull yearling is 
positively ridiculous. An old stag or bull of the Longhorn breed, 
when wounded, would stick his tongue out a full foot and bawl so 
loud that cattle two miles away would turn to listen — a sound far 
more startling than refreshing. 

The mingled bawls and lowings, each of a different pitch, strength 
and timbre, of a big herd of mixed cattle held forcibly while hungry 
and thirsty after a day of being ginned about, frantic young cows and 
headstrong old cows separated from their calves, calves in misery for 
their mothers, yearlings adding to the din in the same way that each 
of forty babies will go to crying if one opens up, steers bawling for 
their lost powers of masculinity or for the same reason that great 
Arctic wolves bay at the midnight sun or from some urge that only 
God is aware of, bulls bellowing at the memory of past combats or 
maybe without memory at all — all make a kind of music to many a 
cowman's ears, especially at a distance. 

But no cattle voicings, not even those attending a bull fight, ever 
had the power, the might and the terror of the massed blood call. In 
The Naturalist of La Plata, W. H. Hudson has described it well. 

Out on the pampas of the Argentine, where Spanish cattle ranged 
in countless numbers, Hudson came one morning to a spot where 
thieves had butchered a cow during the night, leaving the ground 
soaked with blood. At the same time, he relates, "a herd of cattle 
numbering about three hundred head appeared, moving slowly on 
towards a small stream a mile away. They were traveling in a thin 
line, and would pass the bloodstained spot at a distance of seven or 
eight hundred yards, but the wind from it would blow across their 
track. When the tainted wind struck the leaders of the herd, they 
instantly stood still, raising their heads, then broke out into loud ex- 
cited bellowings; and, finally turning, they started off at a fast trot, 
following up the scent in a straight line until they arrived at the place 
where one of their kind had met its death. The contagion spread, and 
before long all the cattle were congregated on the fatal spot, and began 
moving round in a dense mass, bellowing continually. 

"It may be remarked here that the animal has a peculiar language 
on occasions like this; it emits a succession of short bellowing cries, 



The Longhorn Blood Call 19 

like excited exclamations, followed by a very loud cry, alternately 
sinking into a hoarse murmur, and rising to a kind of scream that 
grates harshly on the sense. Of the ordinary 'cow music' I am a great 
admirer, and take as much pleasure in it as in the cries and melody of 
birds and the sound of the wind in the trees; but this performance of 
cattle excited by the smell of blood is most distressing to hear. 

"The animals that had forced their way into the center of the mass 
to the spot where the blood was, pawed the earth, and dug it up with 
their horns, and trampled each other down in their frantic excitement. 
It was terrible to see and hear them. The action of those on the border 
of the living mass in perpetually moving round in a circle with dolorous 
bellowings was like that of the women in an Indian village when a 
warrior dies and all night they shriek and howl with simulated grief, 
going round and round the dead man's hut in an endless procession." 

One of the memories I shall carry to the last is of cattle congregating 
around the hide of a freshly killed cow that had been thrown, the 
flesh side up, over a log fence between a pen and a pasture of about 
four thousand acres. The hide had been flung there at the end of a 
summer day, after most of the cattle watering at troughs in the pen 
had come in, drunk, rested under the shade trees for hours, drunk 
again, and gone out to graze in the cool of the evening. But two or 
three latecomers, among them a big pale red and white-spotted steer 
about three-fourths "cold blooded" in his breeding, smelled the hide. 
They began to bellow. Cattle not yet grazed out beyond hearing came 
to the sounds in a trot, adding to the wild utterance. Cattle beyond 
them heard and came too, calling yet others from parts of the pasture 
watered by another well. By dark between two and three hundred 
cattle were milling and carrying on, bawling their lungs out and mak- 
ing such a to-do that we could hardly eat our suppers in the rock house 
a hundred and fifty yards up the hill. 

The blood call was used as a means for tolling wild brush cattle 
into the open. After Mexicans had roped and waylaid these outlaw 
cattle for generations, an Irish-American cowman named Mike Carri- 
gan conceived the idea of utilizing the blood call. He was ranging a 
large number of aged steers in a big country where thorns are as thick 
as the hair on a dog's back. He was about to gather a train load of 
them to ship. 

The evening before the work was to start, while a cow was being 
butchered, he saved a bucket of blood. Early next morning he carried 



20 J. Frank Dobie 

it to an open spot where steers bedded every night, poured it on the 
ground, drove a few gentle steers — gentle enough to get in sight of 
and hold in a herd — to where the blood had been spilled, hid his men 
in a thicket, and then let nature work. Those beeves set up a bellering 
— a word much more expressive than bellowing — and a bawling that 
soon drew five hundred of their kind to the stomping grounds. Among 
them were mossy horns that for years had hardly been in a place open 
enough to hold their shadows. Carrigan's vaqueros now slipped out 
of their hiding and had their herd together before the steers knew 
work was started. Old Mike Carrigan used to call this method "gath- 
ering cattle de luxe." 

Claude McGill could imitate the blood call and draw cattle to him. 
Jack Maltsberger, another brush-country cowman, conceived the idea 
of a blowing horn that would give the blood calls. I have seen him 
blow it and bring up a bunch of cattle that by their own agitated calls 
would drown out a foghorn. 

Yet by no means did every hide or whiff of blood excite such dem- 
onstrations. Often the blood was almost unnoticed and mass meetings 
over it were comparatively rare. It was not sorrow over the death of 
a fellow being that excited the blood call. Only mother cows when 
they lose their calves and one of a pair of old oxen when his mate dies 
evince concern over death. The "smell of mortality" seems to have 
little effect on cattle. The "cow funerals" that the little McKee girls 
used to listen to on the Brazos prairies were not from pity or mourning. 
The smell of fresh blood alone provokes those mighty wails from rav- 
ished cow throats — though, as I have indicated, the alarming calls will 
bring responses from cattle that have only heard but have not yet 
been maddened by the smell in their own nostrils. I am not sure, but 
I think that only cow blood has the power to awaken the terror both 
expressed and aroused by the blood call. 

Superb as it may be, the mounting of animals in museums without 
representation of their voices leaves out something very characteristic 
and dramatic. Will nobody mount me a brindle bull and add to him 
the call of blood and the bellow of battle! 




Her Quaint Honour 



Caroline Gordon 



HE first year I was at Taylor's Grove I raised ten thousand 

1 pounds of tobacco. Five thousand pounds of lugs and seconds 
and five thousand pounds of prime leaf. And, boy, was it prime! I 
ought to have got thirty cents for that leaf the way it was selling that 
year. But I didn't get but fifteen. That yellow wife of Tom Doty's 
was the cause of that. 

I was raised at the Grove, but I had a fuss with my folks one fall 
and I went off to Louisville and worked in a garage. I got to be a 
pretty good mechanic, but they kept me at it eighteen hours a day. 
I figured there was no percentage in that; so I saved up some money 
and started me a combined garage and filling station. I made money 
on the service end, or would have if it hadn't been for my friends. 
They came from all over town and were all slow pay. Then the 
depression hit us. I started lying awake nights worrying about the 
pay roll. One night I got to thinking about all that land at the Grove. 
It don't belong to me or to any of us — yet. It belongs to my grand- 
mother. She is seventy-five years old and hell on wheels. Always has 
been, they tell me. Still I knew that if I could stand the old lady I was 
welcome to go there and farm. 

I got up the next morning and went to see a man I know. By after- 
noon I'd sold the shop, including some high-priced accessories, and 
was heading for South Todd. 

But I didn't go straight to the old place. I went by to see a 
nigger I know. Tom Doty was the house boy at the Grove when I 
was a kid. Then later he got to be a hand and finally foreman and 
he stayed there till he had some trouble with my grandmother and 
had to leave. I reckon I'd better stop now and tell you about my 
grandmother. She is the only woman in South Todd old enough to 

21 



22 Caroline Gordon 

have owned slaves— her parents died when she was little — and she 
has never got over it. The niggers say can't anybody get along with 
her and don't any of them try it. The poor white people don't know 
as well as the niggers do, and two or three families move on the place 
every year. But they never make more than one crop there. As the 
old lady says, "They don't suit the place." 

But this Tom Doty I was telling you about always could get along 
with her when he wanted to. And besides that he is the smartest 
nigger and the fastest worker I ever knew. I always said that if I ever 
went to farming I'd try to get hold of Tom, so I stopped at Price's 
Station and found he was cropping at a Mr. Bannerman's and went 
right on over there. 

It was just before Christmas, but it was a warm day. Tom was sit- 
ting on the doorstep, sunning. I thought he must be doing right well 
at Mr. Bannerman's, for everything he had on was new— leather coat 
and tan shoes and a pair of those purple corduroy pants the niggers 
like so much. He looked good in 'em too. Tom is a tall, handsome 
nigger, with a very black face and a big, real nigger mouth. My grand- 
mother always said he had Coromantee blood in him. 

I drove up to the door. "Hello, Tom," I said. "Have you traded 
for next year?" 

He jumped right up. "God help me! If it ain't Mister Jim!" 

"It ain't anybody else," I told him. "Have you traded yet?" 

"I ain't named it to Mister Bannerman," he said, "but I reckon he'll 
let me stay here long as I want to." 

"How'd you like to make a crop with me?" 

Tom kind of grins. "Whereabouts?" 

"Well," I said, "there's a lot of land over at the old place ain't in use." 

Tom grins again. "Hi yi! You reckon Miss Jinny'd let us stay on 
the place long enough to make a crop?" 

"I was thinking about trying it." 

He stood there looking at me a minute. He scratched his head. He 
sat down. Then he stood up. "Mister Jim, I got a wife in there I 
believe can git along with Miss Jinny." 

"You got something then," I said, "let me see her." 

He called, "Frankie!" A girl came to the door. I didn't like her 
looks much. For one thing she had on lipstick and rouge. She was 
almost as tall as Tom and plump. And she had grey eyes and a bright 
skin. I never did like to see grey eyes in a nigger's head and a light- 



Her Quaint Honour 23 

skin nigger always looks sassy to me. Still she had a good-natured 
smile and good nature was what I was after. 

"Howdy, Frankie," I said; "whose girl are you?" 

"I'm Old Man Gus Byars's daughter." 

I was glad to hear that. Those Byars niggers are as respectable 
niggers as we've got in our county. Old Gus is the grandson of a 
white man, Mister Jim Parlow, who died right after the Civil War. 
He had four hundred acres of land and in his will he divided it up 
among his four mulatto sons, said, "They may be niggers, but they're 
damn fine boys." The rest of them had lost their land long ago, but old 
Gus still has fifty acres of his. 

"Frankie," I said, "you know Miss Jinny Taylor?" 

"Naw, suh, but Papa say he been knowin' her all his life." 

"Can your papa get along with her?" 

"Naw, suh, he say cain't nobody git along with her, black or white." 

"Well, Frankie, Tom here says you can get along with her." 

She laughed and ducked her head. "Folks generally likes me," she 
said. 

Tom had sat down and was whittling on a stick. He'd been eyeing 
Frankie like he'd never seen her before and was trying to make up his 
mind about her. "Mister Jim, I believe she kin do it," he says finally 
in that soft voice of his. 

"Well, what about it, Frankie?" 

She was looking at Tom. I could tell from that look that they were 
a mighty loving pair. "Whatever Tom say," she told me. 

"All right," I said, "we've done traded. Tom, you got a wagon?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Well, you be ready to move your stuff around New Year's." 

"How you know Miss Jinny got an empty cabin?" 

"I'll empty one." 

He laughed. "Miss Jinny gwine have something to say to that." 

I drove on over to Taylor's Grove. Got there about four o'clock. 
The front door was locked. I knocked on it a long while. Nobody 
came, but I could hear a radio going full tilt inside. Finally I shouted : 
"Mama! Mama!" (My mother died when I was little, so I always call 
my grandmother "Mama.") There was a lull in the music. The old 
lady came to the door. She is a small old lady with white hair and 
real pretty blue eyes. She wears grey gingham dresses, and, if it's 



24 Caroline Gordon 

cold, a little shawl. She stuck her face up against the screen. "Who 
is it? What do you want?" 

"It's Jim," I told her. "Looks like you'd let me in after I drove all 
the way from Louisville to see you." 

She opened the door mighty quick then. That old lady likes her 
own flesh and blood. She just can't stand to have them around long 
at a time. 

"Jim!" she said, "Jim, I'm glad to see you." 

"Why'n't you let me in then?" I asked, kidding her like I always did. 

She said: "I heard somebody calling 'Mama,' but I thought it was 
the music. So many of these new songs have 'Mama' in them." 

We went in and sat down and she told me all the news, mostly 
about a polecat had got in the henhouse and how the tenants were 
drying up her cows. After a while she asked me if I didn't want 
supper, the way people do when they expect you to say "no." 

I told her I could eat a house. She looked kind of worried and then 
she said she wasn't figuring on eating any supper and had let the fire 
go out, but she could scramble me some eggs. 

I kindled a fire in the stove and she fixed the eggs. But it took her 
a long time. I could see that she had broken a lot since the last time 
I was here. I thought it was time some of her own folks came to live 
with her. 

After supper we went and sat in her room some more and listened 
to the radio. She is hell on politics and likes to know what is going 
on in Soviet Russia and China. I sat there looking at her and thinking 
how she'd kept us all in a stew for twenty or thirty years and would 
keep it up too till she died. 

The way I figure it she isn't mean. She just has more curiosity than 
most folks. When she has anybody around her she just has to take 
'em to pieces to see what makes 'em tick. And when she finds the 
weak spot she can't help probing it. I decided that if I was going to 
make a crop there, I'd try to stay away from the house as much as 
possible. I wasn't thinking much about the future in those days. Just 
to make one crop was all I figured on. 

It was ten o'clock. She got up and said it was time to go to bed. 
I knew it was time to strike. 

"Mama," I said, "how'd you like to have me come here and make 
a crop r 



Her Quaint Honour 25 

She blinked. Her face worked like she was going to cry. But that 
old lady is game from the word go. "Well," she says, offhand, "I'll 
have to see what Phil says about it." 

Uncle Phil is her brother, lives on the next farm. He is seventy 
years old and weighs two hundred pounds. He manages her business 
like he manages his own by sitting on the front porch and hollering 
at the hands. 

"That's right," I told her, "we'll have to see what Uncle Phil says," 
and I went on upstairs to my old room and went to bed. 

In the morning the old lady called Uncle Phil up and had a long 
talk with him. When she got through she said that Uncle Phil thought 
it was a good idea, but I'd have to talk over the details of the trade 
with him. I told her that was all right. I'd go over to see Uncle Phil 
that morning. Then I asked her if there was an empty cabin on the 
place, and when she said there was I told her I thought I'd try to get 
Tom Doty for a cropper. She said that was fine. She always liked Tom. 

I thought it was about time to hit the big road, so I said I'd go on 
over and have my talk with Uncle Phil. I stopped at a country store 
and telephoned him. He must have heard I was there. 

"What's the matter?" he sings out. "City got you down?" 

I said that that was the size of it and told him I'd decided to make 
a crop at the Grove if he was agreeable. 

He didn't say anything for a minute. Finally he said: "What you 
want to make a crop for ? Why'n't you just go there and stay as long 
as you want to?" 

"Listen," I told him. "I've been working eighteen hours a day in 
that garage, but I'm not ready for a nursemaid's job yet. And if I was 
I wouldn't start on Mama because she is hell on wheels and always 
has been." 

"She don't mellow much," he said and then he gave a sigh. "Well, 
I reckon you got to get experience. Come on over in a few days and 
let me know how you make out." 

I told him I would, and then I drove over to Bannerman's. Tom was 
sitting there on the doorstep. "Well, Tom," I said, "you can move 
in any time you want to." 

Tom looked at me kind of funny. "How Miss Jinny gittin' along?" 
he asked in that polite voice of his. 

I couldn't help but laugh. "She ain't broke any. But you said 
Frankic could handle her," 



26 Caroline Gordon 

Tom laughed too. "That's right," he says. 

They moved in three days later. Right then I came near making 
a big mistake. I went on down to the cabin that first morning and 
told Tom I reckoned Frankie'd better go up and see about working 
for Miss Jinny. 

Tom looked upset like he always does when he has to go against 
white folks. Finally he says, "Mister Jim, it ain't time for Frankie to 
go to the house yit." 

I told him all right. I was pretty busy for the next week or so, and 
I didn't have time to think about those niggers. All this time the old 
lady and I'd been having snacks off the kitchen table because it was 
too much trouble to light a fire in the dining room. Then one night 
when I rolled in for my scrambled eggs there was a fire going in the 
dining room and the table was all set. Frankie was in the kitchen 
standing over the stove and the old lady was ambling around telling 
her to do this and that. I beat it across the hall and waited till they 
rang the bell. 

There was fried chicken and mashed potatoes and mustard greens. 
The chicken was fine and the mustard greens were cooked down like I 
like them, but I was waiting for the biscuits. Those old-fashioned 
housekeepers judge a cook by her bread. I picked one up looking 
kind of sour as if I expected the worst. It was light as a feather. I 
ate seven and I could have eaten more, but I was afraid the old lady 
would think I was dissatisfied with her cooking. We had some kind 
of pudding after that and I had a cup of good coffee. The old lady 
just picked at a chicken wing and she wouldn't drink any coffee for 
fear it would keep her awake. I went on across the hall and after the 
old lady had shown Frankie where to put things and bossed her about 
the dishwashing she came too. The old lady can't read much at night 
on account of her eyes, so she usually keeps the radio going till ten 
or eleven o'clock. She turned it on tonight same as usual. It was a 
talk on Soviet Russia, but it didn't seem to hold her. She turned it 
off and came over to the fire. 

"That wife of Tom's came up today," she says, "and wanted to know 
if I wouldn't give her some milk. I told her I'd give her a gallon if 
she'd churn every day." 

I put my paper down. "A gallon of milk! You know what that 
would cost you in town?" 



Her Quaint Honour 27 

"I ain't in town," the old lady says, "and ain't going to be if I keep 
my reason. The milk don't cost me anything and I'm glad for 'em 
to have it. I'm going to have Frankie get supper every night too. 
Of course I'll pay her extra for that." 

"You don't really need her, do you?" I asked. 

"No, I don't need her," the old lady says, "but when I find one 
that's willing to work I like to encourage 'em. So many of 'em won't 
do a hand's turn these days." 

"Tom's a good man," I says, "but that Frankie don't look like much 
of a worker to me." 

"She ain't overly strong," the old lady says, "but she's a good cook. 
All those Byars girls are good cooks." 

Well, it went on like that. The way I figured it Frankie got paid for 
everything she did, but every day she'd do a little something extra 
that she hadn't been paid for and that kept the old lady feeling good. 
It was like they were running a race, with Frankie lagging on the turns 
so the old lady'd always keep in the lead. I got to worrying for fear 
they'd get all the chores done some day and Frankie'd have to pass the 
old lady. 

There was one other thing worried me. Frankie was well named. 
She and Tom were just like the niggers in the song. They were will- 
ing to work, but loving came first. Every day after dinner Frankie 
would leave the dishes there on the table and she and Tom would head 
for the cabin. I was afraid the old lady'd notice and one day I took 
the bull by the horns. "Don't Frankie do any work in the afternoons ?" 
I asked. "I came through the kitchen at one o'clock the other day and 
she'd left all her dinner dishes." 

The old lady bridled up. "She goes to the cabin to rest a few minutes 
right after dinner. Good cooks are all like that. They get nervous, 
cooking. They have to cool off before they can eat anything." 

I thought that as long as the old lady thought Frankie went to the 
cabin to cool off it was all right. I was pretty busy about that time. I 
don't know whether you ever raised any dark tobacco ? A man ought 
not to go into it unless he wants to keep on the move. There's some- 
thing to do every month in the year. We start burning out plant beds 
in February. In April it's time to take the canvas off and let the plants 
toughen up. Then, from the middle of April on through May and 
sometimes up to the first of June, you're on pins and needles waiting 
for a good season to set your tobacco. In our country we have some 



28 Caroline Gordon 

of the worst drouths in the spring. It's a hard proposition, setting 
tobacco when the ground isn't wet. You have to water every plant by 
hand and at that you're lucky if you get a stand. 

We had some good rains in May, though, that year. I got my whole 
crop set on two rains. It was a fine stand and grew off pretty. By 
July my tobacco was waist-high, good, broad, spreading leaves too. 
She was ready to cut by the first of August. And I got the whole crop 
— ten thousand pounds of tobacco — cut and into the barn by August 
fifteenth. I felt pretty good about that, but I knew the hardest job 
was still ahead. It's the curing that tells the tale. You've got to put 
the smoke to her just right. 

I'd been around tobacco barns a lot when I was a kid. I knew it 
was the devil of a job to get the right colour and finish on a leaf, but 
I wasn't worrying. Uncle Phil, for all he is so lazy, knows a lot about 
farming. I thought I only had to ask him when the time came. 

I let my tobacco yellow for about a week before I started the fires: 
good chunks of hickory going in all four corners of the barn. I fired 
off and on, according to the season, for two weeks and then I called 
the old man and asked how much longer I ought to let the fires go. 

"Hell," he says, "how do I know?" 

"You been raising dark tobacco for fifty years," I told him. "You 
ought to know something about it." 

"I know one thing," he says. "You'll house-burn it, sure as God 
made little apples, if you're let alone." 

"Why'n't you come on over and show me how to fire it then?" I 
asked, knowing he wouldn't stir out of his house if half the barns in 
the country were burning down. 

"I haven't cured a crop of tobacco in thirty years," he says. 

"What do you do when firing time comes?" 

"I get somebody that knows more about it than I do. Go on over 
and get Bud Asbury. He's a genius at it." 

I drove over to the Asbury place. The first thing I saw was Old Man 
Asbury coming around the corner of the barn. He hadn't changed 
since I was a child: little old dried-up pea of a man rattling around 
in his overalls. I had to go in and howdy with old Mrs. Asbury before 
I could tell him what I wanted. He said Bud wasn't home right now, 
but he knew he'd be glad to help me. "All right, then," I said, "tell 
him to drop around tomorrow morning." 



Her Quaint Honour 29 

The old man looked kind of worried. He began all over again, 
saying Bud would be proud to help me — if he was home when the 
time came. 

"Has he got a job somewhere?" I asked. 

The old man said no, he didn't have any job. 

"Well, don't he come home to sleep?" 

The old man said the fact was that he hadn't seen Bud for three, 
four days. "You know he always was a rambling sort of a boy," 
he said. 

"Well, I hope he'll ramble in here tomorrow morning," I told him, 
"or I'll have to get somebody else to cure that tobacco." 

I went on home. Fifteen minutes after I got there Uncle Phil called 
up. "Have you read today's Tobacco-Leaf?" he asked. 

I told him I'd been too busy to even take the paper out of the box. 

"It's a good thing for you I read the paper," he said. "You better 
go on into town and get Bud Asbury out of jail." 
^ "What's he in jail for?" 

"For taking a man's car." 

"Maybe he'd better stay in jail," I said. 

The old man laughed. "Bud wouldn't steal a pin! You go on in 
there and tell the judge to turn Bud loose, that you need him to fire 
your tobacco. No, tell him I said I needed him to fire my tobacco. 
You better take some money. There's a drunk and disorderly charge 
too. 

I went on in. The judge is a mighty pleasant old man. We howdied 
about the healths of both our families and then I told him what Uncle 
Phil said. "Well, now," he said, "I'm glad Phil can use him. That 
charge they've laid against Bud is just a piece of Bill Cain's foolishness." 

Bill Cain is our prosecuting attorney. "Has he got it in for Bud ?" 
I asked. 

The judge explained that Bill Cain and Chief Patterson didn't ex- 
actly have it in for Bud. They were just worn out with him. It seems 
that Bud is a spree drinker, goes on a bat regularly every two or three 
months. He's also one of these blind drunks that never lose the use 
of their legs. This time he'd come out of a speakeasy and got in some- 
body else's car and drove off. The man who lost the car figured that 
Bud had it, because Bud's car was still sitting there in the square next 
morning. But he goes ahead just the same and swears out a warrant 
for Bud's arrest. 



30 Caroline Gordon 

"And Bill Cain," the judge said testily, "was fool enough to serve it." 

I told the judge I thought Uncle Phil would go on Bud's bond and 
in the meantime I'd take him home and sober him up with a little 
work. Tom said he'd drive Bud's car over to the Asburys'. I went 
by police court and paid Bud's fine and then went on over to the 
county jail. 

Mr. Cleaver, the sheriff, and Bud and two niggers were sitting in the 
hall playing checkers. I told Mr. Cleaver what I wanted and he said 
all right, but he'd be obliged if I'd wait a few minutes: He and Bud 
were having a tournament with the niggers. "This boy, Billy," he 
says, pointing over his shoulder, "is the champion of Dunham's ware- 
house, but Bud and me are going to beat him if you'll give us time to 
finish this game." 

I said all right and came in and watched them. Bud looked like he 
was still drunk or else he had a whale of a hangover. He sat up there 
stiff as a dead man, pushing those checkers around. He's a tall, lean 
fellow, about forty years old, one of the handsomest men I ever saw 
in my life, but with a kind of shattered look to him. It wasn't his 
features or the fact that he'd slept in his clothes. It was his eyes: He 
had that cold-looking blue eye you see sometimes in steady drinkers or 
sometimes in men that just don't give a damn. I decided I'd as soon 
not meet him when he was on one of his sprees. 

They finished their game; the niggers beat 'em four out of six. The 
sheriff went in his office and telephoned Uncle Phil, then came back 
and told Bud good-bye. 

"Don't stay away so long next time, Bud," he says, winking at me. 

"They ain't goin' to be no next time, Mister Cleaver," Bud tells him. 

As we drove home he gave me quite a lecture on drinking. The 
trouble, he said, was the liquor they sold you nowadays. It had got 
so he was almost a teetotaler, never knowing how the liquor would 
take him. Once he wanted me to stop the car. He was a mind to go 
back and beat up Lonny Cross who'd sold him the liquor. You'd 
think, he said, that you could go in a man's bar and have a drink 
friendly like, without him poisoning you. I told him he'd better leave 
Lonny Cross alone. He wasn't out of the woods yet on that larceny 
charge. He didn't seem worried about that. His idea was that the 
prosecutor must have been drunk when he let the man swear out the 
warrant. "Must have been. Mister Cain knows I wouldn't steal any- 
body's car. Why, a man needs his car to get around in." 



Her Quaint Honour 31 

We drove into the Grove about five o'clock. Tom had just got back 
from the Asburys'. I stopped by the barn a minute and then I took 
Bud on up to the house. I went in the back way like I always do 
when I've got mud on my boots. Frankie was frying some fish one 
of the boys had caught in Grinstead's pond. She said the old lady 
hadn't been feeling so well and was lying down. 

The kitchen smelled mighty good with fish frying and coffee mak- 
ing. There was a table in the corner that Frankie always kept covered 
with a fresh cloth. I thought that long as the old lady wasn't coming 
in Bud and I might as well eat at that table, so I told Frankie not to 
bother making a fire in the dining room and then I went on in to see 
the old lady. 

She was lying down listening to the radio. I stayed with her awhile 
and then I left her with the radio turned low and went back to the 
kitchen. 

Tom had come in from the barn and was sitting on his bench back 
of the stove. Frankie had put a chair up to the table for Bud, and he 
was sitting there, smoking. I thought he must be needing a drink 
bad by this time; so I stepped into the dining room and found a pint 
bottle that was three quarters full of whisky. I divided it between the 
four of us, giving Bud a little the best of the deal. 

He turned his glass up and downed her at one smack. "You ain't 
got any more of that?" he says. 

I told him that as far as I knew it was the last in the house. "Miss 
Jinny and Frankie are teetotalers," I said. 

Tom lets out a laugh. That was a joke we had. The old lady 
doesn't believe in using liquor except for medicine and cooking. "I 
just take it to ease the pain," she says, but one way or another she and 
Frankie get through with about a quart a week. 

Frankie laughs too. "You can leave it around here all you want, 
Mister Jim. I ain't gwine tech it." 

"I'll drink your share, Frankie," Bud says. 

He was looking different from what he had when he came in. Those 
funny blue eyes were shining and he had colour in his cheeks. If I 
hadn't known there wasn't any liquor in the house I'd have thought 
he was starting on another drunk. 

Frankie was taking her fish off the stove. We drew up our chairs. 
Her coffee was good that night and we had a dozen of those little pond 
perch fried a golden brown. And every time we turned around 



32 Caroline Gordon 

Frankie was there with more batter bread. I told her I believed it was 
the best she'd ever made. 

She had just handed me a piece and was going on to Bud. He 
looked up at her. "Yeah," he said, "and them's mighty pretty little 
yellow hands that made it." 

Nobody said anything for a minute. Before I knew it I'd looked 
over at Tom. He was sitting on a bench by the stove and he slewed 
around as sudden as if he'd been pulled by a string. His eyes popped 
open and fastened on Bud's face. Then he realized that I was looking 
at him and he ducked his head and began eating again, real slow. 

I looked back at Bud. He looked back as unconcerned as you please. 
I kept on looking at him. I made my voice real hard. "Eat up, Bud," 
I said, "it's time we were getting to the barn." 

"That tobacco ain't goin' to walk off," he says, and laughs and looks 
up at Frankie, who was still standing there by the table. 

I pushed my chair back. "I'm ready now," I said; "I'd be obliged if 
you'd come with me." 

He put one last piece of corn bread in his mouth and reached for his 
hat. We went out the back way and started down to the barn. We 
hadn't gone far before Bud said he'd have to stop a minute. I thought 
he had to see a man about a dog and walked on. I hadn't been in 
the barn more than ten minutes before he came in. And in a little 
while Tom came too. 

We set to work building up the fires. You can't have flames going 
any length of time. You've got to have red-hot embers, and keeping 
a hickory log at that stage takes doing. But Tom was good at it as 
Bud remarked. 

Bud seemed to be feeling better and better. He went over the barn, 
pinching a leaf here and there. He said the tobacco was in exactly the 
right order. Seems it's all a matter of draft. If you have too much 
draft the lighter edges of the leaf'll dry out too quick and set in what- 
ever colour they happen to have at the time instead of making the nice 
brown everybody wants. 

He talked a lot about house-burning. Said there wasn't any use of 
anybody house-burning their tobacco if they kept their minds on it. 
Said it comes from letting your fires die out too sudden. That vapor'll 
stop right in the middle of the barn and condense into sweat. She's 
gone then, he said, and can't anything bring her back. But the nearer 



Her Quaint Honour 33 

you can bring her to house-burning without burning her the prettier 
she'll be. 

About twelve o'clock we got up to go up to the house for more coffee. 
Tom got up too. I'd intended to leave him there to watch the fires, 
but something about the way he looked made me change my mind. 

The three of us started back to the house, but Bud dropped off as 
we were crossing the yard. Seemed to me he was having a lot of sudden 
calls that night and I so remarked to Tom. 

Tom laughed, kind of surly. "He done gone to git him some more 
of that wine. Whilst you in talking to Old Miss he went in the dining 
room and got him a whole jug of blackberry wine." 

"Why 'n't you stop him, Tom?" 

Tom laughed again. "Mister Jim, you know I couldn't head Mister 
Bud Asbury off when he wants to do anything." 

"Is he mean?" I asked. "Has he got the reputation of being mean?" 

"He's hard to head," Tom said. "The jedge or anybody that has the 
handlin' of him'll tell you that." 

Bud was already sitting up to the table when we came in. "Come 
on," he called, like it was his house and not mine. "Come on and git 
some of these good sandwiches Frankie made us." 

I could see he'd taken on another load of the old lady's wine. H^ 
kept laughing most of the time, and once when Frankie was passing 
something he made a swipe low with his hand and caught hold of 
her ankle. 

Frankie was quick. She flopped over against the table, spilling half 
the sandwiches. " 'S'cuse me, Mister Bud," she says, "I mighty nigh 
fell on you." 

"It don't make a bit of difference," Bud says genially. "You fall all 
over me if you want to." 

I was stumped. I've been around a good bit. I know plenty of men 
that think nothing of sleeping with nigger women, but I never saw 
one in the act of going after a nigger woman before. It gave me a funny 
feeling. And I was worried about Tom. Tom is a boy that thinks a 
lot of his raising. I don't reckon he'd ever spoken an out-of-the-way 
word to a white person in his life — until that night. 

Bud finished eating and got up and went out on the porch, to get a 
drink of water, he said. He was out there a few minutes and then he 
came to the door. "Frankie," he called, "step here a minute." 



34 Caroline Gordon 

Frankie jumped up quick like she always does when there's any 
waiting on to do and then she must have realized what he wanted, 
for she stopped short and just stood there, staring at him. 

Tom was getting up from his bench behind the stove. He kept on 
coming till he was right in the middle of the floor. Then he stopped. 
"Mister Bud," he said, "that's my woman." 

I saw his hand go up, slow, over his jumper. He wears one of these 
old-fashioned cutting razors slung there on a piece of string. 

I stepped out between them. I looked him straight in the eye. 

"Tom!" I said, "Tom\ You sit down there behind that stove." 

That nigger looked at me like he'd never seen me before. Then his 
eyes changed. "Yas, sir," he said, kind of dazed. "Yas, sir, that's what 
I was going to do." 

I looked at Frankie. I was mad through by that time and it seemed 
to me that more'n half of it was her fault. Those high yellows just 
can't help bridling if a man looks at 'em. "Frankie," I said, "do you 
want to go out on that porch with Mister Asbury?" 

She was crying. "Naw, suh, I don't want to go out there with no 
white man." 

"Well, go on over there and sit down by Tom and try behaving 
yourself for a change." 

She went ofT sniffling and I walked over and stood in front of Tom. 
"Tom," I told him, "I'm going out there to see Mister Asbury and I 
don't want any niggers mixing in. You understand ?" 

"Yas, sir," he said, keeping his eyes on the floor. 

I stepped outside. Bud was walking around in the yard. It was 
dark out there when you stood away from the window. The fool 
thought I was Frankie. He made a dive at me. "Come on, honey," 
he says, "let's you and me take a walk." 

I caught him by the arm. "You're going to take a walk," I says, "but 
you ain't going with Frankie. Now, Bud, when you get through that 
gate you hit the big road and you keep going till you strike your old 
man's house." 

We were passing the window. I could see the surprised look on his 
face. "Now, Jim," he says, "what have I done to get you down on me 
like that?" 

"You been making passes at Frankie right in my kitchen," I told 
him. "I ain't going to have it." 

"All right," he says sadly, "if that's the way you feel," and he goes 



Her Quaint Honour 35 

off across the yard. He hadn't gone but a few steps before he stopped. 
"I ain't goin'," he says, sullen like a child. "I ain't ever started curing 
a crop of tobacco that I didn't finish it. I'm goin' right back to the 
barn." 

I saw there was nothing else for it; so I tackled him. I caught him 
around the knees and we both went down together in the mud. He 
tried to get up, but I shifted my hold and got him around the chest. 
He broke my hold without half trying and the next thing I knew he 
had me flat on my back in the mud. "I hate to do this," he says, "but 
you don't seem to have no sense tonight." 

I didn't say anything and after a minute he let me go and got up. 
I jumped to my feet and went at him again. This time I knocked him 
over backwards, but he turned quick as a cat and had me with a leg 
hold. 

We clinched two or three times after that. I never could break his 
hold, but he'd let me go just so I could come at him again. His blood 
was up now and he was enjoying himself. As for me I was beginning 
to think that if anybody hit the big road that night it'd be me. 

The last time he threw me plumb over his head. I landed so hard I 
thought my neck was snapped in two. I lay there a second trying to 
get my breath. Then I realized that my left hand was hurting like 
blazes. I moved it. Something rattled: I'd landed against a pile of 
tobacco sticks. I took another good breath and got up with one of 
those oak sticks in my hand. 

The kitchen door opened, real soft. Tom came out. "Mister Jim," 
he called, "you want me to come out there and help you tie up 
Mister Bud?" 

"You come out here," I said, "and you'll get the worst beating you 
ever got in your life." 

I walked over and let Bud have that solid oak, whang, on the side 
of his head. He rocked a little like cattle do when you fell them and 
then he started toward me. But my legs were still good. I jumped 
to the side, quick. "Bud," I said, "I'm going to raise knots on the other 
side of your head if you don't hit the big road." 

I don't believe he knew what had hit him till that minute. He 
stopped and fingered his head and then came at me. I let him have it 
again, a harder lick this time. It knocked him down, but not out. 
That boy's head was hard as bow-dock. After a bit he got on his feet. 



36 Caroline Gordon 

He stood there, staggering; then he says, real polite, "All right, if 
that's the way you feel," and starts for the gate. 

I went on in the house. "Come on, Tom," I said, "we better get 
back to the barn." 

We took turns the rest of the night sleeping and firing. But we 
had let the fires go plumb out while we were having the ruckus and 
the barn had got cold. We got the fires going good again and kept a 
steady fire the rest of the night and the wind had changed so it was 
making the draft just the way you want it. But before I left the barn, 
towards daybreak, I pulled down a leaf and felt it. It wasn't what you'd 
call dry but it had lost that kid glove feeling. Tobacco has a skin 
just like a woman's. Once that stretchiness is gone out of a leaf, it's 
gone and there ain't anything can bring it back. 

Daylight was coming in through the open door. 1 looked at the 
tiers of tobacco hanging all the way up to the roof. Ten thousand 
pounds and if it had been cured right we'd have got thirty cents for 
every pound of the prime leaf, but now we'd do well to get fifteen. 

Tom was just getting up from a pile of sacks, feeling his leg that 
had gone to sleep. "Tom," I said, "take a look up there." 

"What is it?" he says, "old 'possum or something on the rafters?" 

"It ain't any 'possum," I said. "But last night we had nineteen hun- 
dred and sixty dollars hanging up over us. Now we ain't got but nine 
hundred and thirty." 

Tom looked at the tobacco and then he looked at me. He poked his 
lip out. "That Mister Bud Asbury," he said, "I don't care how good 
he can cure tobacco. He better stay away from my woman." . 

I didn't say anything. A man has to fight if somebody tries to take 
his woman. But I couldn't stand by and watch that nigger carve Bud 
up. It struck me as a funny business. Always has. 



AMERICA'S MYTHOLOGY 

Mark Van Daren 

America's great gods live down the lane; 
Or up the next block blend their bulk with stone; 
Or stand upon the ploughed hills in the rain ; 
Or watch a mountain cabin left alone. 

Gigantic on the path, they never speak. 
Unwitnessed, they are walked through every hour. 
They have an older errand; or they seek 
New sweets beyond the bound of mortal sour; 

Or love the living instant, and so minded, 
Bestride the lesser lookers — who can say? 
There is no man has seen them but was blinded; 
And none has ever found them far away. 

America's tall gods are veteran here: 
Too close for view, like eagles in the eye; 
Like day itself, impalpable and clear; 
Like absolute noon's air, unflowing by. 

They are the first of all. Before the grey, 
Before the copper-colored, they were moving 
Green-brown among the deep trees: deep as they, 
As curious of the wind, as tempest-loving; 

As shaggy-dressed, as head-proud; and in summer, 
As lazy. So they lived. And so they still 
Live everywhere, unknown to the newcomer, 
Whom genially they watch. And so they will 

To earth's end, feeding on their ancient grain, 
Wild wheat tips, and barbed rice tops, and the meat 
Of mast whereover richest leaves have lain; 
Although they pick the tame fields too, and eat 

With fathers at the heads of merry tables; 
And sleep on beds for change, and sit with talkers. 
Whence all their lore; for man's least deeds are fables 
To these old-natured gods, these ancient walkers. 

37 



38 Mark Van Doren 

STRANGE TOWN GOD 

He is the one that meets us where the first 
Small houses, dark and poor, lead into light; 
And tells us how the features, best and worst, 
Make something like a face in country night. 

He is the only townsman who would know. 

For the lean rest it is familiar chaos. 

His love is older; is a breath to blow 

Strict lines from curb to roof till patterns stay us: 

Till pausing by the dusk hotel, we count 
Street lamps, store fronts, red jail; and farther on, 
The first white house again, where the maples mount 
That high east hill our road goes up — has gone 

Each night like this since who knows when? Who'll say? 
The sprawled god never answers in his pride. 
The question is enough. And shows the way 
To hot hamburgers, coffee, and thin fried. 

COMPASS GOD 

Which way this forest faces; 
How sharp we angled there; 
When the wind struck us, came it 
Slantwise or square ? 

At home now it is certain — 
The hay door — perfect West ? 
Our cousin in the spare room: 
Will he rest ? 

He said he had it backwards: 
Due South for simple North : 
Turned full around, no matter 
How he went forth. 



Americas Mythology 39 

There is a tall one watches 
And pities our poor eyes: 
Except that some are knowing; 
Are needle-wise; 

Were Eastward set when Phosphor 
Whitened the oldest dawn ; 
And are the eyes he blesses, 
In babe or fawn. 



SICKBED GOD 

His body wreathes the room like draughts 
Of air, of tender air, and wafts 
Both pity in and envy — both 
The terror and the nothing loath. 

This weakness, the uncertain eyes, 
The back that will not rest and rise, 
The fingers — they are strange as fear, 
Though he has practiced it all year; 

And would have faltered at the heart 
Had he but known the helpless part; 
Had he but mastered how the breath 
Refuses what it can to death. 

The wonder bends him to a cheek ; 
To the seen bone, and to the bleak 
Burned-over forehead ; then the stare — 
At which there have been days the air 

Sorrowed with him, and the scent 
Of older weeping came and went; 
And he lay visible, as though 
A current should forget to flow. 



40 Mark Van Doren 

GARDEN GOD 

He is the sun-white one that loves 
High noon in the bean rows, or as you tie 
Gourd tendrils fenceward comes like doves 
And will not let your memory lie — 

Pecks it till it lifts and wings 
In bright near circles by him; floats 
Like fire above your forehead ; flings 
Thought-atoms down, minute as motes. 

In front of your eyes, that mingle green 
With brown for study, and sift the clods 
For such clear answers as are seen 
Not heard — so goes it with the gods. 

So too with gardeners when the sun 
Pours silence past them, and they hoe 
Like men of old — young though to one 
Who still was older, and would know 

Why all at once, nobody by, 
They smiled and pulled it, or at the bend 
Of some hot corn row looked on high 
And frowned, reflecting; then the end. 

HORSE GOD 

They are newcomers too, the bent-necked 
Pullers, the head-high starers, the stampers 
Of flies: new legs, new tails in the hay. 
So he picks a red foal as it scampers, 

Breasting the flowers, and all a wet summer 
Follows its misty feet; till cold days 
Flatten the grass once more; till frost 
Barrens the world ; till bones of the old days 

Show in the sod, and a wind reminds him 
Of animals lost and gone — yet ruffles 
The coat of his rusty yearling; blows 
All morning between the two, and muffles 



America's Mythology 41 

The whinny that was a meadow's music; 
Mingles the fencewire's hum with a neighing 
Shriller and farther away. So he blinks 
And follows the hoof-thuds closer, staying 

Warm by a flank, wind-tossed at a foretop ; 
Turns, and approves the eyes; and wanders, 
Free of his charge, all day — but whirls 
At sunset to that sound again, and ponders. 



BIRD GOD 

His study is the way we stand and peer, 
Foot-lifted, toward a thicket where the shade, 
Sewn suddenly with needle notes, declares 
The wing most wild, the feathers most afraid. 

Or openly at evening when the swifts 
Cut the same blue as ever, when the crows 
Rip the last hour of silence and subside; 
He watches how we listen, and he slows 

To a last clumsy pity; leans and waits; 
Leans closer still. But still our birds are strange. 
Still are we distant from them, and no arm 
Of any wishful man can wave exchange. 

He walked among them, numbering their beaks, 
When the first forest shed them to the sky; 
When the first eagle spiralled, and the owl's 
Aimed silence wrapped a midnight mouse's cry. 

Finches from his wrist looked down for seed, 
And dropping to the grass heads picked and ate. 
As long ago as ravens — but he pauses, 
And pities once again our after date. 




The Buck in the Hills 



Walter Van Tilburg Clark 



I LEFT the peak about two o'clock, drank the very cold, shale- 
tasting water coming from under last winter's snow in the notch, 
went on down, and then south through the marshy meadow, already 
in shadow from the col, the grass yellowing and the sod stiffening from 
the fall nights, so that I could walk straight across and feel only the 
first solidity and then a slight give which didn't spring back. It was 
strange in the meadows, walking in the shadow, but with the sky still 
bright blue, as in the middle of the afternoon, and the sunlight, when 
I stopped to look back at the peak, just beginning to look late. It was 
chilly in the shadow, too, but I didn't hurry. The peak was sacred 
to me, the climb was pilgrimage, and five years is a long time. I had 
been very happy all day, climbing with the sun on my neck and 
shoulders, and I was very lonely and happy now. I took my time, and 
looked at everything, and remembered a lot, and would have yodeled 
sometimes, but the quiet was better. 

I climbed over the big rock barrier, which a million winters had 
cracked into terraces, saw the dry, shriveled clumps of leaves and single 
dead stems in the cracks, and remembered times I had come up there 
in the summer, which is spring at that height, and seen it pouring with 
green, like cascades, and lighted by flowers. I remembered the dark girl 
who knew all the flowers, and who, when I bet her she couldn't find 
more than thirty kinds, found more than fifty, and remembered how we 
had eaten our pocket lunch dry, in a niche on the east side of the peak, 
out of the strong wind we could hear among the rocks and more heavily 
in the notch below. We couldn't see it then, but the image was new 
in our minds of the big basin to the west, with its rolling of dark- 
green to pale-blue heavily timbered hills, and the wide, dark-blue flat 
of Tahoe, rough with wind and jointed exactly into all the bays and 

42 



The Buck in the Hills 43 

coves, and the little lakes at different heights around it, also fitted like 
single pieces into a relief puzzle. In front of us, way down, squared 
with fields and pencilled by the straight roads, was the chain of ranch- 
ing valleys, and then the lesser, burned mountains rolling to the east, 
and in the far northeast just a sky-colored sliver of Pyramid Lake 
showing through the last pass. I remembered that the clouds that day 
had gone all around the horizon in a narrow band, flat underneath, all 
at exactly the same level, with clear sky between them and the moun- 
tains, and with their tops standing up in little, firm bosses and domes, 
and not a single cloud in the field of sky above them, so that we sat 
high up in the center of a great circle of distant cloud. This seemed 
to mean something, and gave our thoughts, and the big arch of the 
world we looked at, a different quality that made us uneasy but happy, 
too, the way I was now. 

I went on through the sparse trees and the rocks over two ridges, 
and could see from them, and from the little valley between, the rock 
castle at the end of the high col to the west, where I had eaten at noon 
another time, when I was alone, and then stayed for two hours to 
watch a hawk using the wind over the hollow to the west, feeling 
myself lift splendidly when he swooped up towards me on the current 
of the col, and then balanced and turned above. 

I was feeling like that when I got back to the little grassy lake where 
I'd left my pack. The pack was still there all right, under the bench 
nailed between two of the three trees on the hump at the farther side. 
Beyond the three trees, which were stunted and twisted by wind, I could 
see the wall of the col, very dark now, with a thin gold sky above it. 
Besides the bench, there was a pine-bough bed and a rock fireplace 
in the shelter of the trees. I hadn't made them, just found them there, 
but in the dusk the place gave me the hawk lift again. I had the night 
here alone, and another day in the mountains. That was a lot. And 
I had already stacked my firewood; brought it down that morning 
from the east slope. 

I went around to the camp side and stood looking at the lake, think- 
ing about swimming before I made a fire and ate. It was cold, and 
the water would be cold too. The lake was really just a pool of snow 
water, with no outlet, and no regular inflow, shallow enough so the 
dead grasses showed up through the edges. But I like that kind of 
clean, cold feeling, and it had been warm climbing in the middle of the 
day. I peeled off, and stood liking the cold on my body, and the 



44 Walter Van Tilburg Clark 

frozen, pebbly earth under my feet, and then, when I went nearer the 
edge, the wiry grass. It was very still in the valley, and the water 
reflected, exactly and without break, the mountains and the last of 
that thin, yellow light. I got that lift again. This time I would take 
it out. I ran splashing till I was thigh-deep, and then rolled under. 
The water was even colder than I had expected, and hardened my 
whole body at once. For a minute or two I swam rapidly in circles 
in the small center that was deep enough. Then I was all right, and 
could roll easily, and even float looking up. The first stars were show- 
ing above the ridge in the east. I let go a couple of bars of high, 
operatic sounding something. It came back at me from under the 
col, sounding much better, sweet and clear and high. God, I was 
happy. This was the way I liked it, alone, and clean cold, and a lot 
of time ahead. I rolled over to dive and start one more fast turn, when 
I heard a yodel that wasn't an echo. 

I stood up, feeling the cold rim of the water around my chest, and 
even in the dusk could see the shape of the man coming over the hump 
and down towards the lake. When he was part way down, I could 
tell by the walk, a little pigeon-toed and easy, giving at the knees all 
the time, that it was Tom Williams. He had his pack on, and his 
rifle over one shoulder, with a thumb in the sling, the way Tom always 
carried it. The remainder of ecstasy went out of me. I'd rather have 
Tom than almost anyone I know for outside company, but I didn't 
want anybody now. And Tom meant Chet McKenny, and I didn't 
want Chet now or any other time. Chet was a big-boned, tall Scotch- 
man, probably ten years older than either Tom or me, with grey in 
his stiff hair. He had a kind of stubborn originality that wouldn't use 
a joke somebody else had told, but he couldn't make a good one; so he 
was laughing all the time over bad jokes of his own. But that wasn't 
what I disliked, though it got tiresome. What I didn't like about 
McKenny was deeper than stupidity. You saw it when you saw that 
his eyes were still watching you when he laughed; you were always 
on guard against McKenny. 

The three of us had come up in Tom's car, and they'd left me at the 
summit meadows. They were going on over to the flat to start a deer 
hunt. I was supposed to have today and tomorrow and then be back 
out at the meadows by sunset to wait for them. 

Tom came down to where I'd dropped my clothes, and unslung his 
rifle and pack and put them down. 



The Buck^ in the Hills 45 

"Cold ?" he asked. He didn't have to speak loudly. 

"Plenty," I said. 

I kept looking for Chet to come over the rise too. 

Tom peeled or! and came in, but slowly, and then just lying out and 
letting himself sink under. He came up slowly, too, as if the water 
weren't cold at all, and just stood there, not even rubbing himself. 
There was something wrong. 

"Where's Chet?" I asked. It would even be pleasant, with a fire 
after supper, to have Tom to talk to, if he was alone. 

"That bastard," Tom said. Then he let himself down into the water 
again, and came up a few feet farther off, his thin, blond hair streaming 
down and the springy, blond mat on his big chest holding a few drops. 

"He won't be here, anyway," he said ; "so you don't have to worry." 

He began to swim hard, and I took another turn, to get the blood 
stirring again. Then we walked up out of the water. Tom didn't 
say anything more, and I didn't either. I knew it would come. Tom 
doesn't often talk much, except about engines, but this was different. 
It was working in him, hard. He went up to his pack, and I could 
see the muscles in his heavy white shoulders working while he hunted 
in it. He got out a towel and threw it to me. Then he went back 
down to the water, and I saw he had a cake of soap in his hand. But 
he didn't bathe. I stood there wiping off and watching him, and he 
just bent over in the shallows and washed his hands. He washed them 
hard, three or four times, rinsing them between. That was queer for 
Tom. He was an auto mechanic, ran a -little shop of his own, and 
he'd long ago given up hoping to have his hands really clean. Often 
on trips like this he'd go two or three days without washing them at all. 

He still didn't say anything, though, when he came up; just took 
the towel from me and began to wipe himself slowly. 

It felt good to be in the warm flannel shirt and cords again, and shod 
heavily. Maybe that's even the best feeling, the cold that makes you 
feel thin and single, with no waste matter, but beginning to get warm. 
I lit a cigarette with stiff fingers, and saw against the match flame how 
dark it was getting. The cigarette tasted very good too. I was all set 
to be happy again, if Tom was right. 

Tom didn't talk while he was dressing, or while we went up to the 
camp, or while he was cooking and watching the coffee and I was 
putting some new boughs and the sleeping bags on the bed. The bed 
was a good one, wide enough for three, and in a pit a foot deep. I 



46 Walter Van Tilburg Clark 

went down to the lake to get two cans of beer out of the water. They're 
a lot of weight to carry in a pack, and I'd thought maybe I was pamper- 
ing myself when I'd put them in, one for each evening. Now I was 
glad I'd brought them. When I came back up with them, Tom was 
just letting the things cook, and standing away from the fire, looking 
at the stars over the valley and in the little lake. 

"This is a swell place," he said in an easier voice. "Gee, I haven't 
been in here for years. I'd forgot what a swell place it was." 

Then I knew it was going to be all right, once he got around to 
telling me, and I had to sing a little while I put the beers between roots 
and took the eggs and beans off the fire; not loudly, but just about 
like the crackling of the fire. 

When he came back and sat down on the bench, the light on his 
face with its fine mouth and big, broken nose and blue eyes, and its 
hard weather lines, he looked at me because I was singing, and I could 
see he was still thinking, but not feeling the same way about it. 

When we'd started to eat, I asked, "How did the hunting go?" 

"Don't you worry," Tom said. "I didn't get anything. I didn't even 
get a shot. I didn't see a thing." 

He looked closed up again, as he had when he came into the water. 
He finished his beans, staring into the fire. Then he said suddenly, 
"That McKenny is a first-rate bastard." 

"What's he done now?" I asked. 

Tom looked right at me for a moment, as if he'd start, but then he 
said, "Oh, hell, let it go." 

He got up and went down to the edge of the lake slowly, and after 
a moment I saw his match flare, and then, every now and then, the fire 
point of his cigarette moving. 

I'd never seen Tom let anything eat on him like that before. He 
made up his mind very hard about what was wrong and what was 
right, especially about people, but he did it carefully, and he was 
usually gentle about it, even afterwards. It was the first time I'd heard 
him speak out like that. Whatever happened, it must have been 
pretty bad. 

Well, I was sure now that McKenny wasn't coming. I stopped 
thinking about it, put more wood on the fire, and lay on my back 
where the light wouldn't be in my eyes. Then I could see the silhouette 
of the col, where it walled out the stars, and the big peak glimmering 



The Bhc\ in the Hills 47 

in the starlight in the north. The size of the place, and the cold quiet, 
came back to me, and I was happy again. 

I'd forgotten about Chet when Tom came back up and sat down on 
the bench. He stared at the ground for a moment. Then he looked 
across at me. 

"You always thought so, didn't you?" 

'Thought what?" 

"That Chet McKenny was a first-rate bastard?" 

I didn't like to say so. 

"All right," Tom said. "I guess he is, at that." 

He didn't say anything more; so I sat up. 

"Have a beer?" 

"No, thanks." 

I had to get him started. 

"Did Chet get anything?" I asked. 

Tom looked at me hard. 

"Yeah, he got one, all right, a good big buck, better than two- 
twenty, I'd guess. Ten points." He looked down. 

Then he looked up again, and said suddenly, and loudly for that 
place, "You know what that bastard did? He—" but stopped. 

"He what?" 

"No," Tom said. "I'll tell you the way it was. Maybe I'm wrong. 

"I worked down south, towards the lake meadows. I didn't see a 
thing all day; not even a doe; not even a fresh track or droppings. I 
figured it had been worked over and got disgusted and went back to 
the flat in the afternoon to get some sleep. I was washing up at the 
brook, and when I stood up and turned around, there was this big 
buck, a mule, on the edge of the trees across the flat. Even from there 
I could tell he was a big one, and I cussed, because there was my rifle 
up against a tree thirty yards from me, and the buck had spotted me. 
You know, his head was up and right at me, and those big ears up too. 
He was trying the wind. I figured if I moved he'd be back in those 
trees before I could take a step. So I held it. After a while he let his 
head down, way low, and began to go along the edge of the flat 
towards the pass. Then I saw there was something the matter with 
him. He wasn't using his left front leg; just bucking along on the 
other one, in little jumps. He was tired out, too, stopping every few 
jumps and taking the wind again, and then letting his head drop that 
way, like he couldn't hold it up. I figured somebody'd made a bad 



48 Walter Van Tilburg Clark 

shot. I started for the gun. He saw me then, but he was so far gone 
he didn't even care, just kept hopping and resting. Then I didn't 
know whether I wanted him or not. Only I might as well, if his leg 
was really busted. 

"I was standing there on the edge of the flat, wondering, when I 
heard this yell. It was Mac, coming down through the trees. He 
yelled at me to head the buck off. Your lousy shot then, I thought. 

"When I went right out at the buck, it tried to hurry. I yelled at 
Mac did he want me to finish it, and he yelled at me, hell no, it was 
his buck. The buck stood there with his head up when we yelled; he 
didn't try to do anything. 

"I don't know. It made me mad. But it was Mac's buck. I started 
to work around so as not to hurry it any more than I had to. Mac was 
working along in the timber to get right above him. When I got 
around in front, we worked in closer, and then the buck saw us both, 
and just stopped and stood there. He was shivering all over, and didn't 
have any fight left in him. I could see now that he'd been hit in the 
leg, right up against the body. The blood was mostly dried on black, 
but there was a little fresh blood coming out all the time too. The 
bad leg was all banged up from being dragged on things, too, and he 
was soaked with sweat on the hindquarters and under the throat, and 
making cotton at the muzzle." 

Tom stopped. 

Then he said, "It's funny the way they look at you like that. I don't 
know. There wasn't anything, no fight, no panic, no hope, no nothing. 
He just looked at you. But you couldn't move. They got such big 
eyes. I don't know." 

Tom kicked at a stone with his boot. 

"Well, anyway, I couldn't move. But Mac could. He came up close 
behind. He had his cap on the back of his head and he was grinning. 
He said wasn't it a nice one. Ten points, he said. 

"When he talked, the buck got going again, that same way. It 
was headed across the meadow towards the camp. I got ready to finish 
it, but Mac yelled at me to mind my own damn business and let it go 
or he'd damn well lather hell out of me. You know the way he does, 
grinning, but mad as the devil. I asked him what he thought he was 
doing, but he said that was his business, and to mind my own. 

"The buck was going so slow you could pass it walking; had to 
wait on it. And it stopped two or three times. Mac could have killed 



The Buck, in the Hills 49 

it a long time before it got to the flat; I was sure of that. I began to 
think he wanted to take it in alive, or something. But it wasn't that." 

Tom stopped talking and sat there. 

"No?" I said. 

"No," Tom said. "When the buck stopped near where we'd had the 
fire, Mac said that was good enough, like he was pleased, and unslung 
his rifle and took mine, too, and stood them up against a tree. Then 
he told me to hold the buck's head." 

After a moment Tom went on again. 

"I don't know why I did it. I just did. I never felt that way before. 
I guess I thought he was going to operate, as near as I thought any- 
thing. He just said to hold it, and I did, like I was in a daze. The 
buck kind of backed a little, and then, when I had hold of his antlers, 
he stood still; didn't make a move. Holding onto the antlers, I could 
feel him shivering all over, you know, like putting your hand on a 
telephone pole. Mac had his skinning knife out. 

" 'Hold his head up,' he said. 

"He was kind of leaning over and looking at the bullet hole when 
he said it, and I did. 

"Then all of a sudden he leaned down on the buck's neck with one 
hand, and slit its throat wide open with the knife in the other. Lean- 
ing on it that way, he put all his weight on the buck's one leg, and the 
buck fell over front, and I didn't, get out of the way fast enough. It 
knocked me onto my knees, too, and the blood came out all over my 
hands and arms. It kept coming, in big spurts; there was an awful 
lot of it. I don't know." 

Tom got out a cigarette and lit it. I didn't have anything to say. 
The story made a difference, though, as if it were a lot darker all at 
once, and we were farther away from other people than before, and 
there were things alive in the rocks, watching us. I noticed there was 
a wind coming up too, but didn't think about it, just heard it in the 
trees as if it had been going all the time. 

"It's funny," Tom said. "When the buck got pushed down, it 
stretched way out; you know. Its muzzle was right in my face, and 
it blew. It made a little spray of blood, but it had a sweet smelling 
breath, you know, like a cow's. And then all that blood came out, hot." 

Finally he asked me, "You know what Mac said?" 

"No." 

"Well, he laughed like hell when the buck pushed me over, and 



50 Walter Van Tilburg Clark 

then he said, 'I never take more than one shot,' and then he laughed 
again. 

"I was mad enough, I guess. I told him it was a hell of a shot, and 
he said two inches to the right would of killed him, and pointed at the 
hole, and laughed again and said hell, it was perfect. The bullet had 
busted the joint all to pieces. There were splinters sticking out where 
they'd worked through." 

I was looking at Tom now. 

"You mean he meant to?" I asked. 

"That's right," Tom said. "He thought he was real clever. He 
boasted about it. Said he'd spotted the buck way up in that little 
meadow under the castle rocks; what's its name? The buck was on 
the north edge of the meadow, and up wind of him, what wind there 
was. He said he figured it all out, that it was eight miles back to 
camp, and the buck was a big one. He couldn't see carrying it all that 
way, so he just laid down there on the edge of the timber, to make his 
shot good, and waited till the buck was broadside to him, and then 
busted that foreleg. Said he'd never made a better shot, that it was a 
hundred and fifty yards if it was an inch, and uphill. He was set up 
about that shot." 

"Well," I said letting out my breath. 

"Yes," Tom said. 

"He told me all about how he drove it, too," he said angrily. "How 
it kept trying to run at first, and falling over so he had to laugh, and 
then how it tried to turn on him, but couldn't stand it when he got 
close, and what a hell of a time he had driving it out of a couple of 
manzanita thickets where it tried to hole up. Then he figured that if 
he stayed off it, it would keep going steadier, and it did. 

"So, I guess you were right," Tom said, making it a question. 

"I didn't think he was that bad," I said. "You have to keep it up a 
long time to do a thing like that." 

"He was still going strong," Tom said. "Only excited and talking 
a lot. 

"Like I am now," he added. 

I didn't want to ask. I figured anything he'd done wasn't enough. 
But I still looked at Tom. 

"No," he said. "You don't have to worry. I didn't touch him. 

"I don't know," he said doubtfully. "I wanted you to know the way 
it was, first." 



The Buck in thc Hills 51 

"He had it coming to him," I said. But I was scared, so I nearly 
laughed when Tom told me. 

"I told him if he'd been saving himself so careful, he could damned 
well carry his buck home, and I left him there." 

"I'd like to have seen his face," I said. 

"I didn't even look at him," Tom said. "I just put my things into 
the car and got out. 

"He knew better than to say anything, too." 

"Well," I said finally, "I wouldn't say you were too hard on him." 

"No," Tom said. "But he'll try to bring that buck out." 

"Sure," I agreed, "he wouldn't let it go if it was killing him." 

Tom heeled his cigarette out carefully and said, "You wouldn't care 
to go up the mountain again tomorrow, would you?" 

"Sure I would," I told him. "Now you quit worrying. He had it 
coming to him." 

Tom said he was going to take another swim, and we undressed by 
the fire, and went down together, and came back up wet. I felt very 
cold then, and the wind was stronger. But we piled more wood onto 
the fire, so it threw shadows of the three trees way up the hump, and 
when we'd dried off it felt so good we didn't get dressed, but just put 
on our shorts and stayed close to the fire. 

"I'll have that beer now," Tom said. He was cheerful. 

In the morning the wind was down, but it was snowing. We 
couldn't even see the mountain. I felt worse about the buck than I 
had when Tom told me, and kept thinking about it. We packed up 
and went back down trail, single file and not talking. Snow makes a 
hush that's even harder to talk in than the clear silence. There was 
something listening behind each tree and rock we passed, and some- 
thing waiting among the taller trees down slope, blue through the 
falling snow. They wouldn't stop us, but they didn't like us, either. 
The snow was their ally. 




The Passing of the Timber Beast 



James Stevens 



THE harbor lights glowed through a fine drizzle as the /. N. Teal, 
the last of the old stern-wheeler fleet to carry cargo and pas- 
sengers between Portland and The Dalles, churned into her West 
Side dock. With my blanket roll at my feet I stood by the rail 
and stared, trying to see what life was beyond the lights along the 
river. There were only shadows, black bulks of buildings, streaked 
faintly with yellow gleams. That, for the present, was enough to give 
me a cold, sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach and make my 
heart thump as the stern-wheeler was moored. At last I was in Port- 
land. Here I was, alone in a big city. Here I would realize my dream 
of a new life of labor. Of that I was still certain. No more grading 
camps! I was through with the drudgery of railroad building. So 
long, mules and scrapers! From here I was going to the tall timber 
and live the life of a bully logger! 

"Where do the loggers hang out here in Portland ?" I asked a deck 
hand. 

"The skidroad," he said shortly. 

"Where's that?" I asked, with a blush for my ignorance. 

"I t ' s _hell, I ain't got time to give directions. Just go ashore and 
ask anybody which way's Ericsen's." 

A loafer ashore pointed the way to Third and Burnside Stffeets. I 
plodded along the water front in the rain of the March night. The 
low clouds were black above the dim street lamps. The steel frames 
of the drawbridges over the Willamette looked naked and cold in the 
river lights and shadows. I knew I was on the skidroad when I came 
upon gangs of men before the blackboards of employment offices— 
"slave markets," I soon learned to call them— on Second Street. Most 
of the men wore mackinaws or short mackinaw shirts, "tin pants" or 

52 



The Passing of the Timber Beast 53 

overalls stagged just below the knee, and calked boots. Woods jobs 
were scarce. Many of the loggers were on the bum. An old-timer 
struck me for the price of a bed. I had only a few dollars, but I offered 
to buy him a beer. Over the glasses in a corner saloon he was free 
with information about logging camps. The best one in the North- 
west for a young man of seventeen who wanted to get a start as a 
logger was Paul Bunyan's, he said. Yes, sir, I certainly ought to inquire 
around everywhere and try to get a chance in Paul Bunyan's camp. 

Two years among the team hands of Idaho and Montana had left 
me fairly wise, and I had some notion that the old logger was stringing 
me along, though I didn't doubt that there really was a famous logger 
named Paul Bunyan. I only suspected that this old-timer was trying 
to work me for some more beers. So I quit him and headed for Eric- 
sen's up the street, where all flush loggers foregathered to blow in their 
hard-earned wages. 

At that time — 1910 — Ericsen's Saloon had a world-wide fame. To 
me the grand and glittering barroom was a fairy tale come to life. My 
imagination exaggerated every detail of the scene. The brown and 
shining Bar curved away from the door and ran down a room that 
seemed as big as a circus tent. Row after row of card tables, each one 
crowded with gambling men, reached into corners that appeared 
mysterious and far in the smoke drift. A score of slot machines lined 
one wall. From somewhere came a sound of piano and fiddle music. 
A mellow glow swam about me. I was enchanted as I moved toward 
the bar. 

This bar had nearly the length of a city block with all its curves and 
turns. Back of it white lights shone on mirrors, pyramids of glasses 
and rows of queer-shaped bottles labeled with vivid colors, and these 
stood on a back bar draped with the snowiest cloths. The diamond- 
like dazzle of white half-blinded me. Bright light was also reflected 
from the varnished columns and beams about the mirrors, from the 
brass of the bar rails and the nickel of the spigot handles. The bar- 
tenders, at least fifteen in number, were all in white jackets. They 
were shaved in such a clean style, their hair was slicked down into 
such fancy curls over their eyes, and their mustaches were spiked so 
elegantly that I was certain dukes couldn't look handsomer. I had 
never seen such magnificent men before, not even in the saloons of 
Boise, Idaho. Shiny brass spittoons that looked pretty enough for 
flower vases stood all along the big footrail. Linen towels were hang- 



54 James Stevens 

ing in front of the bar. Glasses clinked; gold and silver jingled; the 
click of poker chips sounded from the card tables; beer purred as it 
gushed from the spigot to the glass; laughs and happy talk sounded 
all along the bar. ... I sipped my beer delicately and looked through 
half-closed eyes upon the scene and dreamed. . . . 

I remembered a February night in a sandhouse at The Dalles. Hoboes 
huddled miserably about a fire. Too bitterly cold for sleep. Com- 
plaints, denunciations, life defiled and cursed. There we were, used 
in the working seasons to dig the ditches, build the railroads, harvest 
the crops; and when winter closed up seasonal work we were made 
outcasts, jailed, or harried from town to town like criminals. Well, 
the working stiffs of the Northwest were learning something. In that 
sandhouse our miserable gang was told of Direct Action and the Red 
Card. I signed up with the others. We could pay our dues when we 
got a job. 

Then the talk had changed. A dream emerged. It was in such 
circumstances that American folklore, the art of the plain man, flour- 
ished. The eternal force behind all creations of art, noble and lowly, 
is the desire to escape from reality. And there in the sandhouse I heard 
again the story of the Hoboes' Heaven. I had heard it before, but 
Singer Larkin told it with genuine intensity of feeling. Briefly, his 
tale was about a Heaven in which every house was a saloon, every road 
a race track, and the only jobs playing poker and crapshooting. Liquor 
and warmth and play! The saloon was the nearest thing to beauty 
and comfort that the Western workingman knew in those days. Small 
wonder that he idealized it in his bitterest hours, that he turned to it 
when the cold politics of industrial revolt failed to inspire him with 
hope. 

The tale had struck my imagination. And here in Ericsen's it seemed 
to be realized. Standing at that glittering bar, it was easy for me to 
fancy that long, hard hours of labor for small wages were gone, that 
I was done with lousy blankets and sour beans and bully boss-men, 
that at last I was in a land where every place was like Ericsen's . . . 
liquor and warmth and play . . . Hoboes' Heaven ... I had never 
known a happier hour. . . . 

Before the summer was over I was to reach a clearer understanding 
of the reason for Ericsen's, and for Fritz's, Blazier's, Our House, Billy 
the Mug's, the Horseshoe, and other famous skidroad saloons of the 
Pacific Northwest's lumber centers. They were, in fact, the only refuge 



The Passing of the Timber Beast 55 

of the "timber beast," the only places where he was welcomed as a 
man, where he could find solace and comfort after a hard and mean 
existence in the woods. In that summer I lost much of my own youth 
and forgot about fairy tales. It was to be many years before I recov- 
ered my boyish perception of the fact that the fanciful tales of Western 
workingmen were as truly art creations out of their own life as are the 
formal works of educated storytellers. 

The saloon, a famous political leader informs us, is a defunct insti- 
tution. No one dares to defend it. The place of the saloon in the social 
life of the time in which it flourished has, however, never been intelli- 
gently studied. It is isolated from the life of its lime, attacked alone, 
and never considered in its relations to the greater evils of its day. For 
example, the timber beast. The timber beast was the great evil of the 
Northwest twenty years ago; and he will always remain a black blot 
on the history of that time and on the record of the society which was 
responsible for him. 

As I discovered, soon after shipping from Portland to a Columbia 
River logging camp, the man who joined the tribe of loggers made 
himself a pariah among the nice folk of the farms and towns. To these 
gentry — all of whom were in some way dependent on the lumber in- 
dustry and consequently on the labor of the men of the woods — the 
man who appeared with a blanket roll on his back, stagged overalls 
on his legs, and calked boots on his feet, was simply a strayed animal. 
He was permitted to stay in town only until his wool was clipped. 
Then he was herded back to the corral. "Timber beast" he was called, 
and so he was treated. In those days few loggers attempted to dress 
up when they came to town, and they never thought of seeking ac- 
quaintance among decent girls. Ah, no! Loggers must keep below 
the Deadline in Seattle and to the North End in Portland. There 
saloons and red lights were provided and also sundry gambling games, 
so that there was no chance of a timber beast returning to camp un- 
plucked. The virtuous police protected the good citizens. The skid- 
road cops had an uncanny instinct for discovering when a logger's last 
dime was gone. Then and only then was the timber beast herded 
back to camp. 

If the saloon was an evil the logging camp of its time was incom- 
parably more so. The men of the woods were herded into dirty, lousy 
and unventilated bunkhouses. They were forced to carry their own 
blankets. There were no facilities for bathing. There were no dry 



56 James Stevens 

rooms, and after ten or twelve hours of labor in the rain every bunk- 
house was pungent with the fumes of drying wool. Grub was plenti- 
ful, but it was coarse and badly cooked; the boss of the cookhouse in 
those days was invariably referred to as "the belly-burglar." On the 
job ground-lead logging was still the rule, and every camp had a high 
monthly toll of injury and death. Industrial hospitalization was hardly 
thought of; any seriously injured man was certain to get the "black 
bottle" in a county hospital or in the hellholes conducted by medical 
murderers who fattened on "hospital fees" collected from lumber com- 
panies. Workmen's compensation laws were then in the class of 
"radical and fantastic legislation." Two dollars per ten hours was the 
common labor wage, and half of that went for board. In short, every 
condition of existence in the logging camp of that era was brutalizing 
and degrading, and the man who could stand it perhaps earned the 
name of "timber beast." 

Yet out of such conditions came the Paul Bunyan stories and many 
other tales that survive because of the beauty of the fancies woven into 
them by forgotten bards. No doubt it was the misery of life which 
made imaginative loggers create the stories of Paul Bunyan's camp, 
with its incomparable cookhouse, delightful bunkhouse life, and inter- 
esting labors. Certainly it is true that the bunkhouse bard passed with 
the timber beast and the miserable conditions of existence in the log- 
ging camps. 

At any rate, my own experiences in my first year of logging survive 
in my mind as two tremendous contrasts. One is black with the misery 
and grief of life and labor in the logging camp of that time ; the other 
shines and rings with the glamor of the moments of escape, when I 
foregathered with the despised timber beasts in saloons like Ericsen's 
and escaped reality. There we became heroes. There, over the glasses 
and under the lights, our labors seemed Herculean, and we boasted that 
none but bullies like ourselves could stand them. In Ericsen's we 
swaggered to the bar and bawled our defiance. Timber beasts, and 
proud of it! We repeated tales about mighty men of the woods to 
justify our kind. We sang old ballads. We were outcasts, but we had 
a tribal life. In Ericsen's was glory, and there we found pride. . . . The 
aftermath, of course, was a sick and bitter awakening in a foul-smelling 
bunkhouse, to be high-balled to work by an iron-fisted bull of the 
woods . . . but a little of the glamor always remained, to make us feel 
some hope in our existence. There was always a blow-in ahead. . . . 



The Passing of the Timber Beast 57 

The timber beasts, the saloon, and all of the old life that belonged 
to them passed in the war. Many different groups claim the credit for 
making the logger's trade a respectable and profitable one. The 
I. W. W., once the most vociferous and violent of Western labor 
organizations, claims the credit for sheets and showers in the camps 
and for the eight-hour day. The lumbermen insist that they them- 
selves inaugurated the social and economic changes. Politicians horn 
in and shout for recognition. The fact is, however, that no organization 
or individual was more than an agent for the inevitable change. The 
real cause was the sweep of the tide of Eastern urban civilization over 
the West. 

Transportation and finance had at last bound the West to the East. 
Small lumbering and logging operations were being bought up by the 
big companies. The manufacture and marketing of lumber were re- 
organized along Eastern industrial lines. Vast mechanical develop- 
ments occurred in both the mills and the woods. The degree of Log- 
ging Engineer was conferred on graduates of forestry schools. The bull 
of the woods who ruled by brawn gave way to the logging superin- 
tendent who was technically skilled. Logging railroads, new types of 
bull donkeys, high lead and skyline logging methods brought me- 
chanics to the woods. The logger became a skilled laborer, and as such 
he demanded the wages and living conditions enjoyed by skilled la- 
borers in the cities. All of the changes were coming into effect when 
America entered the war. The economic condition of the logger had 
improved tremendously, but he was still a timber beast in the eyes of 
the farm and town folks. War conditions, however, elevated his social 
status and made his trade respected, even admired. 

This resulted from the entry of the government into spruce produc- 
tion. Col. Bruce Disque was sent out from Washington to organize 
the lumber industry for wartime needs. The Spruce Division was 
formed, the government eight-hour day established in the logging 
camps. Loggers became soldiers, and soldiers were popular. When 
the erstwhile timber beast came to town he no longer wore the old 
regalia of stagged pants and calked boots; instead, he was shiny and 
neat in a tailored uniform. He was no longer kept to the North End 
and below the Dead Line. Now he was one of Uncle Sam's boys, a 
fit companion for decent girls, a man honored by all. He learned the 
pleasures of the theater, the automobile, and the dance palace. He 
discovered that with this broadening of his social life the necessity for 



58 James Stevens 

the saloon was diminished and his appetite for its beverages fell away. 
He was no longer a timber beast; at last he was a man. 

And he was more of a man in the woods. Production per man far 
exceeded the figures of the old era. The lumbermen learned that 
better food, cleaner living conditions, shorter hours, respectable treat- 
ment meant more logs and lumber. After the war, some of the old- 
time lumbermen fought for a return to the old conditions, but the 
younger and more progressive men among them held to the once revo- 
lutionary idea that it was better in every sense to regard workers in 
the woods as men rather than as beasts. 

So the logger of today is a man with a highly respectable and profit- 
able trade; he is no longer a drudging and despised timber beast but a 
skilled mechanic of the timber. His bunkhouse is orderly, clean, and 
comfortable. He sits at a table loaded with savory, well-prepared food. 
There is a camp garage for his automobile. He enjoys the radio and 
the phonograph. He is protected by company insurance, workmen's 
compensation laws, and first-class hospital service. When he drives to 
town he goes to his tailor's, where his hundred-dollar suit has been 
kept for him, dresses up in an elegant style, and stops at one of the 
best hotels. He has friends among smart and pretty business girls. 
His only concern with liquor is to be socially acceptable; that is, he 
must never be without a full pocket flask. 

Certainly for this logger the saloon is a defunct institution, but only 
because other institutions that once made his life wretched and bitter 
are also defunct. The romance of his life is also gone, for that romance 
was made by the contrasts in his life, the high vivid spots among the 
darkest of shadows. He no longer suffers miserably in a life of bleak 
toil, and he no longer riots in a tumultuous blow-in, or dreams purple 
fancies of a logger's heaven ruled by a beneficent god such as the great 
and good Paul Bunyan. He is no longer the outcast, the timber beast; 
he is the everyday skilled American workman, prosperous and proud. 
Romance passed with his old life. I for one often look back with 
regret on "the good old days," but I know that is because I forget the 
long months of labor in the woods, and only remember vividly the few 
nights in Ericsen's. So I cheer the passing of the timber beast and 
salute the timber mechanic, that fat and sassy plutocrat of the modern 
logging camp. 




The People's Choice 



Erskine Caldwell 



GUS was leaning against the fount in the drugstore Saturday 
morning when Ed Wright, one of the elders, came in and told 
Gus that the church had made him a deacon. Laying aside the election 
itself, that was the first of the blunders that were made between then 
and noon Sunday; Ed should have had sense enough not to notify Gus 
until about midnight Saturday, or better still, just before preaching- 
time Sunday morning. All the blame for what took place cannot be 
put on Ed, though; Gus should be held just as responsible for what 
happened as anyone else in town, even if he did get drunker than usual. 

After Ed had told Gus about the church election, Gus just stood 
there looking at Ed and at the boy behind the fount for several minutes. 
He was feeling so good about it he didn't know what to say. He was as 
pleased about it as he ever was when he heard the county election 
returns. 

"You're a deacon now, Gus," Ed said, leaning against the fount and 
waiting for Gus to set him up. "Don't let the boys in the back seats 
slip any suspender buttons over on you." 

"You know," Gus said, "I'd rather be elected deacon in the church 
than to get any office in the county — except tax assessor. By George, 
it's a big thing to be a deacon." 

Gus was the county tax assessor. He had held the office against all 
opposition for the past ten or fifteen years, and from the way things 
looked then, he would continue being the assessor as long as men went 
to the polls and cast their ballots. 

"Well," Ed said, "everybody's glad about it, Gus. There wasn't any 
doubt about you being elected after your name was put up. It was 
unanimous, too." 

59 



60 Erskine Caldwell 

Gus was feeling so good he didn't know what to say. He waited for 
Ed to tell him more about the election, when the preacher and all the 
elders voted for him; but Ed was licking the corners of his mouth for 
a drink. 

"Let's have a drink, Gus," he suggested. 

"Oh, sure, sure!" Gus said, waking up. "What'll you have, Ed?" 

"Make mine a lime-coke," he told the boy behind the fount. 

"Give me another coke," Gus said, "with three squirts of ammonia." 

That was the fifth coke-and-ammonia Gus had drunk since eight- 
thirty that morning. 

He and Ed stood at the fount drinking their Coca-Colas silently. 
Gus was busy thinking about his election as a deacon, and he was too 
busy thinking about it to say anything. After a while, Ed said that he 
had to hurry back to the hardware store to see if any customers had 
come in, and he left Gus leaning against the fount drinking his coke- 
and-ammonia. 

"You'll have to help take up the collection tomorrow morning, Gus," 
Ed said at the door. "You better wear some shoes that don't squeak 
so much, because everybody will be looking at you." 

"Oh, sure, sure," Gus said. "I'll be there, all right. I'm a deacon 
now." 

Gus was so busy thinking about his being a deacon in the church 
that he hardly knew what he was saying, or what Ed had said. He 
was busy thinking about celebrating in some way, too. He had never 
won an election yet that he hadn't celebrated, and he was just as proud 
of being a deacon as he was of being county assessor. He walked out 
of the drugstore and started for the barbershop. 

In the back room of the barbershop there was a little closet where 
he kept his corn and gin. He intended making the celebration this 
time as big as, or bigger than, any he had ever undertaken before. 
Usually, he only had the chance to celebrate every few years, when he 
was re-elected county tax assessor, and this was an extra time, like an 
unexpected holiday. 

Gus Streetman was as big-hearted as a man can be, and people could 
not help liking him. You could walk up to Gus on the street on a 
Saturday afternoon and ask Gus for anything you wanted, and Gus 
would give it to you. You could ask Gus to lend you his automobile 
to take a ride out to the country in, and Gus would slap his hand on 
your shoulder, just as if you were doing him a big favor, and say: "Oh, 



The People's Choice 61 

sure, sure! Go ahead, Joe. Why, by George, all I've got in the world 
is yours for the asking. Sure, go ahead and drive it all you want to, 
Joe." 

After you had thanked Gus for the use of his car, he would silence 
you and say: "Now don't start talking like that, Joe. You make me 
feel like I ain't doing enough for you. Drive down to the filling station 
and fill her up with gas, and charge it to me. Just tell Dick I said to 
make out a ticket for whatever you want, and I'll come by and take it 
up the first of the week." 

That's how Gus was about everything. It never mattered to him 
what a man wanted. If you wanted something, all you had to do was 
to ask Gus, and if he had it, or could lay his hands on it, it was yours 
until you got good and ready to hand it back to him. 

That was why Gus got elected county tax assessor time after time. 
He had been tax assessor for about fifteen years already, and no man 
who had ever tried to run against Gus in the primaries had a dog's 
chance of taking the office away from him. Just before a primary, Gus 
would load his automobile up with three or four dozen of those big 
Senator Watson watermelons, and start out electioneering. He would 
come to a house beside the road, and get out carrying two of those big 
Senator Watson melons under his arms. When he reached the front 
porch, he would roll the melons up to the door and take out his pearl- 
handled pocketknife and rap on the boards until somebody came out. 

"Well, how's everything, Harry?" Gus would say, thumping the 
Senator Watsons with his knuckles, and cocking his head sideways to 
hear the thump! thump! "How are you satisfied with your tax 
assessment?" 

Nobody was ever satisfied, of course, and that was all there would 
be to Gus getting another vote for the primary. Being a Democrat, 
he never had to worry about the Republicans at election time. The 
lily-whites never bothered with county politics; the mail carriers knew 
perfectly well which side their bread was buttered on. 

"Reckon we can get the assessment changed, Gus?" the man would 
say. 

Gus would never answer that question, because by that time he was 
always busy splitting open one of the big Senator Watsons. When 
he had got the heart cut out, and had passed it around, he would wipe 
the blade of his pearl-handled knife on his pants-leg and shake hands 
all around. 



62 Erskine Caldwell 

"We need a little rain, don't we?" Gus would say, starting back to 
the road where his car was. "Maybe we'll get a shower before sun- 
down." 

That's how Gus got elected county tax assessor the first time, and 
that's how he was re-elected every four years following. He never 
made any promises; therefore he never violated any. But he got the 
votes, nearly all there were in the whole county. 

When Gus had started out to be elected deacon, he went about it the 
same way he did when running for political office. He filled the 
preacher up on those big Senator Watsons, and all the elders, too. 
When the church election was held during the last week in July, Gus's 
name was the first one put up for deacon, and there was only one ballot 
taken. Gus got all the votes. But when Gus wasn't canvassing for 
votes, political or otherwise, and when he wasn't out in some part of 
the county assessing property, he was drinking corn and gin. He kept 
a store of it in the back room of the barbershop, another supply in the 
garage at home where his wife couldn't find it, and a third one at the 
courthouse where he could reach it at any time of the day or night. 

Gus never got too drunk to walk; that is to say, Fred Jones, the 
marshal, had never had to lock him up. Gus was always on his feet, 
no matter how much he had been drinking, or for how long a time. 
He could hold his corn and gin with never an outward sign of drunk- 
enness, unless you happened to look at his eyes, or to measure his stride. 

That Saturday morning, though, after Ed Wright had notified him 
of the election, Gus went down to the barbershop and cleaned out all 
his liquor there, and then he walked over to the courthouse and started 
on the bottles he kept in the coalbox in his office on the second floor. 

Nobody saw much of him again that day, until at a little after eight 
o'clock that night when he came out of the courthouse and walked 
across the square for another coke-and-ammonia at the fount in the 
drugstore. Even then nobody paid much attention to Gus, because 
he was walking in fairly even strides, and he wasn't talking unduly 
loud for Saturday night. The marshal watched him for a few minutes, 
and then went back to the street in front of the Negro fish restaurants 
to pick up a few more drunks for the lockup. 

There had been a traveling carnival in town all that week, and 
nearly everybody went to the show grounds that night to see it close 
up and move off to the next place. Gus started out there with two or 
three other men about ten-thirty or eleven. All of them were pretty 



The People's Choice 63 

well liquored-up, and Gus was shining. When they got to the carnival 
grounds, Gus started out to wind up his celebration. He let loose that 
Saturday night. He took in all the side shows, and he had a big crowd 
following him around the grounds, whooping it up with him. 

Just before midnight, when the carnival was getting ready to close 
and move on to the next town, Gus saw a show he had missed. It was 
a little tent off to itself, with a big red-painted picture of a woman 
pretty much naked dancing on it. There was no name on the show, 
as there was on the others, but down in one corner of the big red 
picture, just under the girl's feet, there was a little sign that said: For 
Men Only. 

As soon as somebody told Gus it was a hoochie-coochie show, he 
made for it, pushing people right and left out of his way. He walked 
up to the ticket-seller, bought three or four dozen tickets, and waved 
his arms at everybody who wanted to go in with him and see the show. 
After they had got inside, the show went all to pieces so quickly no 
one knew what had happened. 

Nobody yet tells exactly what Gus said or did when he got inside 
with the hoochie-coochie girl, but the show was a wreck inside of five 
minutes. It might have been Gus who jerked out the center pole, 
bringing the tent down on top of everybody, and it might not have 
been Gus who grabbed the girl and made her yell as though she were 
being squeezed to death. But anyway, the tent came down, the dancer 
yelled and screamed, the ticket-seller shouted for help, and some fool 
down under the tent struck a match to the canvas. When the crowd 
got the blazing tent off the girl and the bunch of men, they found her 
and Gus down on the bottom of the pile. Fred Jones, the marshal, 
came running up all excited, deputizing citizens right and left, and 
got everybody herded out of the show grounds and closed up the 
carnival. 

What happened to Gus after that, nobody knows exactly, because 
some of his friends pried him loose from the little yellow-skinned 
hoochie-coochie dancer, and carried him back to town and locked the 
barbershop door so he couldn't get out where the marshal was sure to 
get him if he showed himself on the street again. 

Gus didn't go home to his wife that night, because he was in the 
back room of the barbershop pulling on two or three new bottles at 
three o'clock when the rest of the bunch decided it was time to call it 



64 Erskine Caldwell 

a night and to go home and get some sleep. They locked Gus up in 
the back room to sleep it off. 

Early the next morning Clyde Young, the barber, went down and 
shaved Gus and patched his clothes up a little; and at about eleven- 
thirty, ten or fifteen minutes before the preaching at the church was 
due to end, Gus walked into the church and sat down in a rear pew. 

Gus was supposed to be there, all right, because he was a deacon 
then, and it was his duty to help take up the morning offering. But 
Gus was not supposed to be there in the shape he was in, all liquored-up 
again fresh that morning in the barbershop. Clyde Young had brought 
Gus an eye-opener when he went down to shave him and to get him 
ready to take up collection at the church. 

Nobody paid much attention to Gus when he walked into the church 
and took a seat near the back. The preacher saw him, and likewise a 
dozen or more of the congregation who turned around to see who was 
coming to church so late. But nobody knew the condition Gus was in. 
He did not show it anymore than he ever did. He looked to be as 
sober as the preacher himself. 

Gus sat still and quiet in the back of the church until the sermon 
was over. It was then time to take up the morning offering. It was 
customary for the deacons to walk down to the front of the pulpit, 
pick up the collection baskets, take up the money, and then to march 
back down the aisles while one of the women in the choir sang a solo. 

Gus went down and got his basket, all right, and took up all the 
money on his side of the aisle without missing a dime. Then when all 
the deacons had got to the rear of the church, they began marching 
in step, slowly, down the aisle towards the pulpit where the preacher 
was waiting to say a prayer over the money and to pronounce the bene- 
diction. The girl singing the solo was supposed to time herself so she 
would get to the end of the piece just as the deacons laid the collection 
baskets on the table in front of the pulpit. 

Everything worked smoothly enough, until just about the time that 
the rest of the deacons got about halfway down the aisle on their way 
to the pulpit. The soloist was standing up in the choir singing her 
piece, the organist was playing the accompaniment, when Gus stopped 
dead in his tracks, playing havoc with all the ritual. 

The elders and the preacher should have had better sense than to 
make Gus a deacon, to begin with ; but he had carried them off their 
feet, just as he did the voters when he was canvassing for re-election 



The People's Choice 65 

for county tax assessor. It wasn't Gus's fault any more than it was the 
fault of the people who elected him a deacon; they were the ones upon 
whom most of the blame should be put. And on the other hand, even 
if he was to be a deacon, somebody connected with the church should 
have hunted Gus up that morning before preaching started and made 
sure that he was in condition to enter a house of worship. But things 
were never done that way. People liked Gus, and they let him do as 
he pleased. 

When Gus came stomping down the aisle that morning, rattling the 
collection basket as though he were warming up a crap game, he was 
as drunk as a horse-trader on court day. But it was the people's fault; 
they should never have made Gus a deacon to begin with. 

Gus was standing there in the aisle by himself. The other deacons 
had marched down to the table in front of the pulpit, glancing back 
over their shoulders to see what the matter was with Gus, but scared 
to go back and get him. They didn't know what he might say or do 
if they tried to make him follow them. 

By that time the church was rank with the smell of Gus's liquor, 
and all the people were sniffing the air, and turning around in their 
pews to look at him. Gus was staring at the girl singing the solo in 
the choir, and shaking the dimes and quarters in the collection basket 
as if it had been a kitty-pot in a Saturday night crap game at the 
barbershop. 

Then, suddenly, Gus shouted. He must have been heard all the 
way across town in the Baptist church, disrupting their service, too. 

"Shake it up!" Gus yelled at the girl singing the solo. 

The church was buzzing like a beehive in no time. The congrega- 
tion was standing up, sniffing Gus's whisky-smell; the organist stopped 
playing the accompaniment for the solo, the girl stopped singing, and 
everybody, including the preacher, was staring openmouthed at Gus 
Streetman. All that time, Gus was standing there in the aisle rattling 
the money and looking at the soloist. 

When everybody was thinking that the worst was over, Gus shouted 
again. 

"Shake it up!" he yelled at the girl. "Shake it up, Baby!" 

Nearly everybody in the church knew what Gus was talking about, 
because most of the men had been to the carnival, and either had seen 
or had been told about the little brown-skinned hoochie-coochie dancer 
in the tent for men only. 



66 Erskine Caldwell 

Gus was getting ready to yell again, and maybe do something pretty 
bad, but before he could do it, a bunch of the elders and deacons 
jumped on him and hustled him out of the church. 

The minister said a hurried and short benediction, and ran out the 
back door and around to the street to see what was happening to Gus 
in front of the church. 

The elders and deacons hustled Gus into an automobile and drove 
off with him, at fifty miles an hour. The preacher and the rest of the 
congregation came running down the street behind the car. When 
they reached the jail, nearly everybody else in town was down there 
by that time to see Gus get locked up. The Baptist church had turned 
out, and all the Baptists were there on their way home to see what was 
happening. There was a wait of about ten or fifteen minutes while 
somebody was going for Fred Jones, the marshal ; Fred wasn't a mem- 
ber of any church, and he was always at home Sunday morning reading 
the Sunday papers from Atlanta. The marshal had the only key there 
was, and Gus couldn't be put inside until he came and unlocked the 
door. 

While everybody was standing around looking and talking, Gus 
climbed up on the radiator of an automobile and held out his hands 
for silence. People standing oft at a distance pushed up closer, saying, 
"Shhh!" in order to hear what Gus was about to say. 

"Citizens of Washington County," Gus shouted, waving his hands 
and looking the crowd over just as he did when he took the stump for 
the county elections, "I'm not asking you this time if you are satisfied 
with your tax assessments; I'm not here today to ask if you believe there 
is a better man in the county than Gus Streetman. Citizens of Wash- 
ington County, I'm here today to ask you if there's another man in 
the entire county who can increase the membership and attendance 
and double the collection in a church like the man you are now facing!" 

The marshal came running up just then and opened up the lockup. 
He walked over to the car and jerked Gus down from the radiator 
and hustled him inside the building. The crowd pressed around the 
little red-brick lockup, trying to see what Gus looked like on the inside. 
A lot of the ones who were not engaged in pushing and shoving and 
elbowing towards the windows, were shouting: "Hooray for Gus! 
Hooray for Gus! Hooray for Gus Streetman!" 

While the crowd was milling around the windows of the lockup 
Gus's face suddenly appeared at one of them. He shouted for attention 



For an Apple Grower 67 

and raised his hands for silence as if he were canvassing the county for 
tax assessor again. 

"Go home and think it over, folks!" he yelled. "And when election 
day comes around, bring the family out and let's pile up a landslide 
for Gus Streetman!" 

Somebody in the crowd shouted: "Hooray for Gus!" 

Gus held up his hands again, silencing the crowd. 

"Vote for Gus Streetman!" he yelled. "Everybody votes for Gus 
Streetman! Gus Streetman for deacon!" 

Just then the marshal came up behind Gus and hustled him away 
from the window and pushed him into one of the lockup cages. After 
that there was nothing to stay for any longer, because Gus was locked 
out of sight, and the crowd turned away and started home for Sunday 
dinner. Everybody was hoping, though, that Gus would get bailed 
out of the lockup in time to take up the collection again the following 
week, the second Sunday in August. 



FOR AN APPLE GROWER 

Paul Angle 

Being an old man and his mind bearded 

By the white memory of many years, 

I listened to his voice. He talked the way 

A horse drinks, with a slow deliberation, 

The gulp of words big in his throat like water: 

We meet it all the time with the animals. 

You know how cattle lie for hours on a hill 

As if the wind had roped and thrown them down, 

Head hanging quiet while the hollow eyes 

Stare at nothing or eternity, 

Moving only the resolute, old cud. 

They die that way. When the milk fever took 

That grey-faced Guernsey, ill with her first calf, 

I'd go into her stall last thing at night 

And she'd be looking at the very corner 



68 Paul Engle 

I'd found her watching first thing in the morning, 

Her eyes full of a wild emptiness, 

Waiting for something that I could not see. 

So with a woman, there's that in her eyes, 

When the next breath's a chance and each tomorrow 

Is not just one more day but another life, 

That sees beyond your hand on her damp forehead, 

Through the house wall, beyond the very air. 

It can't stop looking more than the heart can beating. 

It's a willow rod that bends to hidden water. 

There's a natural power that pulls the unwilling head 

Whether of woman or of animal 

To face its own mad face and without pity. 

It's like a drouth July, the thirsty sun 

Drinking the desperate hot eyes of hawks. 

I watched his grave tongue grip a thought and plow it 
Grimly through the reluctant loam of speech, 
Turning the heavy furrow of his talking. 
One brawny shoulder backed up what he said, 
Leaning along the line of words. His face 
Lay open to the world as rock to light. 
There was a moving calmness in the man, 
No beating motion like a nervous bird, 
But a plowed field's deep and inner energy 
That with no drift or act but the dark rain's 
Will drive the pale wheat up. He looked at me 
With eyes steady as breathing: 

You know, a boy 
Will live for years with an imagined child 
Who has a name and will but no touched hand. 
So with pain, it is another person 
Who bears you bitter company along 
A burning mile of road on the mind's bent hill, 
Or in a savage friendship paces off 
The little, brutal length of every bone. 

And if he closed them once or turned away 

I seemed to live only in those grey eyes 

He waited till I looked again straight at him. 



For An Apple Grower 69 

I'd vanish with their sight: 

You met her once, 
But late, when pain was native to her nature — 
Drank it in water, heard it in hello. 
She called you by your name and shook your hand. 
That was an act of courage and of will 
Greater than a tough man's on a terrible mountain 
Climbing the massive wall of ice and wind. 
Each breath gave her double nourishment — 
To the declining heart, the labored living, 
To the growing death, the energy of ending. 

He stopped while the cattle with their clicking hooves 

Bold on the shy and beaten dust entered 

The barn where calves bawled for the lost udder. 

He raised his eyes beyond the hills with a glance 

Of tall corn lifting straightly to the sun: 

When it's that way even the blood's beating 

Is a dark and needful thing to be endured, 

A thunder breaking behind the tautened ear. 

No strange power enters from outside, we live 

Intimate with dying, year after year 

Our death grows in us like a toughened bone. 

He held one breath a long time, then went on: 

No, don't bother to be kind and say 

I can go back and see her broad thumbprint 

Worn in the worked earth. I can't learn the crippled 

Lesson of comfort. At my age 

You gather patience like a mold, aware 

Wisdom is knowing when you can't be wise. 

I'll never walk through doors that she has opened, 

Or scoop up water on the hottest day 

From a clear spring where she has knelt to drink. 

And yet our days are here to be lived out, 

The plain bread to be eaten. Any man 

Can put his hands to his own way of work 

And do it with an animal, old wit. 

Yes, I'll go back. The apple trees won't fail me. 

I'll set my face with theirs against the sun. 



70 Paul Engle 

The drunken bees will drink the bruised windfalls. 

We'll put the crop away in bin and cellar 

Where it can glow for a red autumn moon 

Caught underground to cheer us through the winter. 

I hope where she is there are apple trees 

That must be pruned, and sprayed against the worms. 

It makes you glad you have a nose, to breathe 

The autumn smell of apples in the spring. 

He rose, planting his feet down firm and easy 

The way a man does walking the plowed earth, 

Ready for a stone's roll or a clod's breaking: 

Well, I'll go back and watch the season's way. 

There are certain fields that wait my personal 

Watching before they let the arbutus bloom. 

And there's a friendly road up in Vermont 

That winds and wanders in the folded hills 

As if it had been laid out by a man 

Who roamed all through an ancient, rainy April 

Looking for the yellow moccasin, 

From left to right, wherever he saw a flower, 

Making progress and a kind of path 

Only with luck and the plant's way of growing. 

There I can walk and herd mv yesterdays 

Like slow, fat sheep, their eyes reddened with dust, 

To a blind market in some crossroads town. 

Neither sheep nor I can know, until we're there, 

Beyond how many hills and turns it lies. 

The footing will be smooth in the tramped dirt, 

With the sun to mark the stages of our going. 

There will be time to see a friend or two, 

And waiting by the well for a cool drink 

Talk the day's news, the weather's wilfulness. 

There will be time to understand again, 

As I walk the dry, deliberate miles away, 

It is heaven and hell we have now in our days, 

Earth and the simple living are to come. 




Sandhill Sundays 



Marx Sandoz 



OUT of the East and the South, God's country, came the movers, 
pounding their crowbait ponies or their logy plow critters on 
to the open range of Northwest Nebraska. They exchanged green 
grass, trees, and summer night rains for dun-colored sandhills crowd- 
ing upon each other far into the horizon, wind singing in the red 
bunch grass or howling over the snow-whipped knobs of Decem- 
ber, and the heat devils of July dancing over the hard land west of the 
hills. No Indian wars, few gun fights with bad men or wild animals — 
mostly it was just standing off the cold and scratching for grub. And 
lonesome! Dog owls, a few nesters in dugouts or soddies, dusty cow 
waddies loping over the hills, and time dragging at the heels— every 
day Monday. 

Then came big doings. Cow towns with tent and false-front saloons; 
draw played Sunday afternoons in the dust of the trail between the 
shacks; cowboys tearing past the little sod churches, shooting the air 
full of holes while the sky pilots inside prayed hell and damnation on 
them; settlers cleaned of their shirts by cardsharpers whilst their 
women picked cow chips barefooted, and corn leaves rattled dry in 
the wind. 

When the settlers got clear down in the mouth, the sky pilots showed 
up among them. The meeting-point of the revivals was most gen- 
erally Alkali Lake, on the Flats. All Sunday morning moving wagons, 
horsebackers, hoofers, and a buggy or two from town collected along 
the bare bank. Almost every dugout or claim shack for twenty, thirty 
miles around was deserted. Everybody turned out to hear the walk- 
ing parson. 

From the back end of a buggy, fortified by a beard cut like that of 
Christ in holy pictures, the sky pilot lined out the crowd hunched over 

71 



72 Mari Sandoz 

on wagon tongues, stretched on horse blankets or on the ground, hot 
with the glaring sun. 

"You see them heat waves out there on the prairie? Them's the 
fires of hell, licking round your feet, burning your feet, burning your 
faces red as raw meat, drying up your crops, drawing the water out 
of your wells! You see them thunderheads, shining like mansions in 
the sky but spurting fire and shaking the ground under your feet? 
God is mad, mad as hell!" 

Somewhere a woman began to moan and cry. The crowd was up 
like a herd of longhorns at the smell of fire. A swarthy ground- 
scratcher from down on the Breaks began to sing "Nearer My God 
to Thee," couldn't remember the words, and broke out crying, too. 
Others took up songs. "Beulah Land." Somebody broke into the 
popular parody and hid his face. "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb." 

Two whiskered grangers helped the parson off the buggy. "Come 
to Jesus! Come to Jesus!" he sang as he waded into the already cooling 
water of the lake. The moaning woman was ducked first and came 
up sputtering and coughing. The crowd pushed forward, to the bank, 
into the water. 

And when the sun slipped away and the cool wind carried the smell 
of stale water weed over the prairie, almost everybody was saved. Mrs. 
Schmidt, with eight children and a husband usually laid out in the 
saloon at Hay Springs, sang all the way home she was so happy. The 
next week they sent her to the insane asylum. The youngest Frahm 
girl took pneumonia from the ten-mile trip behind plow critters and 
died. The lone Bohemian who scratched the thin ground on the 
Breaks strung himself up. 

Talk of the big revival drifted back into the hills. "I wisht I coulda 
gone; it'd-a been a lot of comfort to me," Mrs. Endow mumbled when 
she heard about it. But one of their horses had died of botts and her 
only chance of getting out now was in a pine box. 

II 

The nesters, well versed in drainage, were helpless against the 
drouth. Each spring there was less money for seed, and Sundays were 
more and more taken up with the one problem, irrigation. Every- 
body threw in together here, the Iowa farmer, the New England 
schoolteacher afraid of his horses, and the worn-out desert rat, the 



Sandhill Sundays 73 

European intellectual, and the Southern poor white. There was no 
place for women at these meetings and so they stayed at home, 
wrangling the old hen and chickens and watering the dry sticks of 
hollyhock. 

Ten years later the drouth, the cold, and too much buying on pump 
had driven out the shallow-rooted nesters and the sky pilots. A few 
hilltop churches took care of those who still believed in a benevolent 
God. The stickers took up dry farming, pailed cows, and ran cattle. 
But farming and milking meant long hours ; ranching called for large 
pastures and consequent isolation. Night entertainment grew more 
common. First came literaries, with windy debates on Popular Elec- 
tion of Our Presidents and the British Colonial Policy, followed by 
spelldowns and a program— songs : "Love Is Such a Funny, Funny 
Thing," "Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie;" dialogues; pieces: 
"The Deacon's Courtship" and "The Face on the Barroom Floor"; 
food. Then the long trails across the hills, dangerous at night, par- 
ticularly along the gullies and river bluffs. 

Eventually most of the communities settled upon dancing as the 
most conducive to all-night entertainment. Everybody went. If Old 
John was running the floor at the dance, there'd be a shapping match 
if he had to cuss out every cowhand or bean-eater there. He'd begin 
to look the crowd over while he was calling the square dances: 

"Gents bow out and ladies bow under, 
Hug 'em up tight and swing li\e thunder!' 

—up on an old tub or bench, stomping his boots to hurry the fiddlers 
until the girls' feet left the floor and skirts flew. At midnight he'd 
help carry in the wash boiler full of coffee, dip a tin cup among the 
floating sacks of grounds, and pour it back through the steam. 

"Looks like your coffee fell in a crick coming over," he always 
bawled out. 

Nobody except Mrs. Beal, Old Man Beal's mail-order wife, ever 
minded. With his cud of Battle Ax stowed away in a little rawhide 
sack he carried, Old John would sink his freed jaws into a thick slab 
of boiled ham and bread as he helped pass the dishpans full of sand- 
wiches and cake to couples lining the walls, sitting on boards laid 
between chairs. The remains in the pans he'd distribute among the 
stags sitting on horse blankets, like flies gathered about drops of 



74 Mari Sandoz 

sorghum on the floor. And afterward, while he swept the dust and 
bread rinds into little piles, he'd egg on the shapping match. 

"Times ain't like they was," he'd complain, looking the crowd over. 
"There ain't a feller here with spunk 'nuff to take a leatherin' to git 
a purty girl." 

Somebody who didn't bring a girl but would like to take one home 
finally grinned and stood up, his neck getting red when the prettier 
girls, those that might be chosen, giggled. And somebody who was 
afraid of losing his girl, or had a general prod on, got up too, and 
the bargain was made. 

A horsebacker's leather shaps are brought in and unlaced so the 
two legs fall apart. Each shapper takes half and the crowd follows 
them to the middle of the floor, Old John passing out advice impar- 
tially between trips to the door to spit. 

Coats, if any, are jerked off, collars unbuttoned. Norm and Al, the 
two shappers, sit on the floor, facing, their legs dove-tailed, each with 
half a shap. Everybody crowds up, the dancers first, then the older 
folks, and around the edge the boys and dogs. 

They draw straws from Old John's fist and the unlucky one, Norm, 
lies on his back and snaps his legs up over him. He takes the horse- 
hide across his rump with all the sting Al can spread on it. Al's legs 
are up now; Norm gets his lick in on saddle-hardened muscles. The 
crowd yells. The whac\-whac\ of the shaps settles down into a steady 
clockwork business, the legs going up and down like windmill rods. 
After a while Al jerks his head and Old John drags him out. He 
sits up, his face red and streaked as a homesick school-ma'am's, only 
his is sweating. 

"Norm's got two pairs of pants on." 

The accused is taken out and fetched back. "Only one pair," says 
Old John. The whacking starts again. Girls giggle nervously, then- 
men hanging to them. The crowd is taking sides. Two sprouts near 
the edge take a lam at each other. Old John separates them. On the 
floor the whacking is slowing up. He drags Al away again, the 
puncher's head lolling, his face gray as window putty. 

The crowd shies back. A pail of water is brought in. Al's face is 
wet down with a towel. He grunts and turns over on his belly, the 
sign that Norm's won. Who'll he pick ? There's no hurry. He can't 
dance any more tonight and it's a long time until "Home, Sweet 
Home." Everybody is talking. The fiddlers start: 



Sandhill Sundays 75 

"Honor your partner and don't be afraid 
To swing corner lady in a waltz promenade." 

Sunday was spent in getting home and sleeping. 

Ill 

As the nesters pulled out, sheepmen bought in along the fringe of 
the hills. Here and there a settler who couldn't make a go of the 
newer farming or cattle took up woolie culture too, and then the 
coyote, up to now a raider of hen coops and scrub calves, developed 
into a killer. Wolf hunts were organized. The regular hour for a 
hunt was about nine in the morning. A relay of shots started the 
horsebackers off on a fifteen-mile front, from Mirage Flats to Kep- 
linger's Bridge. Yelling, whistling, running any coyote that tried to 
break the line, they headed for Jackson's, towards a big V, made of 
hog wire, chicken fencing, and lath corncribbing, with a wire trap 
in the point. 

Broad-handed women unpacked baskets of grub in the big barn 
now for the dinner. 

"Time they was rounding up a few coyotes," Mrs. Putney says, as 
she uncovers a roaster full of browned chickens. "Henry lost twenty- 
five sheep last week, just killed and let lay." 

"They been having three, four hunts a year since '84 and all they 
does is make the critters harder to catch. They nearly never gets 
none," Mary Bowen, an old settler, commented as she measured out 
the ground coffee. "Dogs or poison, that fixes the sneaking devils 
that gets my turkeys." 

"But where's the fun in that?" asks one of the girls climbing into 
the mow, late, but not dressed for work anyway. 

By one o'clock black specks are running over the Flats like bugs. 
Yells, commands, a cloud of dust. Horses tromping on each other's 
heels. A few shots. That's all. 

Four rabbits, one badger, and two coyotes, for two hundred hunters. 

"Got sight of a couple more, but they musta snuck outa the lines. 
Not many-a the Pine Creek bunch showed up." 

Now the dinner, dished up on long boards over barrels in the mow. 
Windy fellows talking about long-ago hunts, when there were real 
wolves, too smart for a mob. Cigars were passed by the local candi- 



76 Mari Sandoz 

date for the legislature; an invitation to a hunt at Rushville two weeks 
•come Sunday was read, and the hunt was over. 

IV 

But the grass in the loose soil died under the sharp hoofs and close 
cropping of the woolies. The ranchers hated sheep, and made it as 
hot for the woolie nurses as they could. At last most of the sheepmen 
pulled their freight. But just as the country was going back to cows, 
the Kinkaid Act was passed. The land rush put a shack on every 
section of land — Easterners mostly, who established Sunday schools, 
with ladies' aids to meet Sunday afternoons becauses the horses must 
work on weekdays. Many of the newcomers objected to dancing and 
had play-parties instead. The soddies were small and the Kinkaider 
chose his games accordingly. Charades, guessing games, or 

Tin-tin, 

Come in, 

Want to buy some tin? 

Perhaps 

Pleased or displeased? 

Displeased. 

What can I do to please you? 

Foot races, pussy wants a corner, drop the handkerchief, or all 
outs in free on moonlit summer evenings. And endless songs, many 
of them parodies on popular tunes: 

Al Reneau was a ranchman's name, 

Spinning Kin Raiders was his game, 

First mortgages only, at a high percent, 

Jew you down on your cattle to the last red cent. 

But no matter how much truck the Kinkaider grew, he couldn't 
turn it into cash profitably unless it could walk the thirty, forty miles 
to a shipping point. They must have a railroad. Once more the 
women stayed at home while the men gathered at the local post office, 



Sandhill Sundays 77 

chewed tobacco, talked, wrote letters, signed petitions, and bought 
more machinery on pump, on the hope of a railroad that never came. 
Once more the shallow-rooted left and the rest turned into combination 
farmers and stockmen. Sundays became ranch days, with a new crop 
of cowpunchers to show off before the native daughters at scratching 
matches. 

The crowd is perched on the top planks, on the up-wind side of the 
corral. Here Monkey Ward cowboys strut about in bat wings and 
loud shirts. Riders that are riders sit on their haunches in the sun, 
dressed in worn shaps and blue shirts. In the corral several green 
hands are running a handful of wild-eyed colts around, trying for a 
black gelding. They snag an old sorrel mare, have to throw her to 
get the rope, try again. 

"Why don't y'u do y'ur practisin' on y'ur bucket calves to home?" 
an old-timer laughs, nudging his straw-chewing neighbor. Dust, 
mix-up of horses and booted cowboys. They have the gelding, snub 
him short. Now for the blind and the leather. Red climbs on the 
last horse, the drawing card of the Sunday afternoon. 

"Let 'er go!" 

The corral gate flies back. The blind's jerked away. The black 
shakes, gathers into a hump, pushing Red up into the sky. 

"Rip him open!" 

The spurs rowel a red arc on the black hide. The horse goes up, 
turns, hits the dust headed north, and it's over. Red's still going south. 

A hazer snags the horse, not head-shy, and brings him in. The fence 
hoots when Red gets up, dusts off his new hat, and walks away to 
himself. Not even hurt. 

Lefty is prodded off the fence, not so keen now as he was a minute 
before Red lit. He climbs on. The black, instead of going up, sprad- 
dles out, sinking his smoke belly to the ground. 

"Scratch him!" an old-timer shouts. Lefty does. The horse is off, 
across the prairie, bucking and running in a straight line. That's 
nothing. But he stops short, all four feet together. Lefty comes near 
going on. 

"Fan him!" a tenderfoot shouts. An old rider spits. His guess is 
correct. There isn't time for fanning. The black leaves the ground, 
swaps ends, runs, swaps again. Lefty hangs on as best he can but the 
turns come too fast. He's down on his shoulder, just missing the double 



78 Mari Sandoz 

kick the black lets out before he quits the country. Lefty picks himself 
up, his arm hanging funny. 

"Collarbone's busted." 

A couple of girls in overalls slide off the fence and fuss over Lefty. 
Any rider's a good rider while he's hurt. 

"That horse belongs in a rodeo string," they comfort him. 

The fence is deserted. "See you all at my place tonight!" Madge 
Miller shouts. The young people scatter down the valley, in little 
knots and couples. Some shag it over the chop hills, hurrying home 
to do the chores so they can go to the party at Madge's. 

"Next scratching match at the Bar M week come Sunday," some- 
one reminds the riders. 

"Hi!" 

V 

The country is scarcely grown up and people are already building 
a tradition, a background. Old settlers and their children are sud- 
denly superior to newer settlers and entitled to an annual barbecue 
as befits the honor. An old-time roundup dust hangs over Peck's 
Grove. Horses shy and snort at the smell of fire and frying meat. 
Cars are lined up by the signal stick of Mike Curran, who once prodded 
cows through the branding chute. Cowboys tear up, leading wild 
horses for the bucking contest. 

"Hi!" 

"Hi! Gonna ride that snaky bronc? Betcha two bits you can't 
even sit my old broomtail!" 

Women hurry about, lugging heavy baskets, picking a shady place 
for the old settler's table. The men look over the race track, the horses, 
the new cars. 

"Well, you son of a sand turtle! Step down and look at your saddle!" 

Logan-Pomroy grins and gets out of his imported car. He shakes 
the hand of Old Amos, champion muskrat trapper, for this one day a 
year forgetting that he is owner of a ranch and three banks and that 
Amos is in dirty overalls, with gunny sack and baling wire for shoes. 
Today they are old cronies, the two oldest settlers. 

"How's the meat hole coming?" Logan-Pomroy demands, and 
leads the way to the barbecue pit. Two sweating ranch cooks are 
turning quarters of browning beef with pitchforks or basting the meat 
carefully with a mixture of water, vinegar, salt, and pepper. The 



Sandhill Sundays 79 

drippings sizzle and smoke in the red bed of ash-wood coals in the 
pit under the barbecuing racks. 

"Come and git it!" a fat woman calls after what seems hours. 

The men trail over to a table made of salt barrels and planks cov- 
ered with white cloths. At the head Logan-Pomroy and Amos sit, 
with later settlers down the sides. Old settlers' daughters wait on 
them, passing huge platters of beef, mutton, and pork, followed by 
unlimited vegetables, salads, pies, cake, fruit, and several rounds of 
the coffeepot. 

After the dinner there'll be contests. Fat men's, sack, three-legged, 
potato, and peanut races. For the women there is that old rip-snorter, 
a wagon race. Each contestant draws two horses, a wagon, and enough 
harness. First to drive around the track wins. The young cowboys 
with hair on their chests will show their guts in the bucking-bronco 
contest, twisting the broncs in approved style, and take part in the 
wild cow, wild mule, and surcingle races. But before that there are 
cigars and speeches and songs. Old Amos adds his rumblings to the 
"Nebraska Land": 

"I've reached the land of drouth and heat, 
Where nothing grows for man to eat. 
For wind that blows with burning heat, 
Nebraska Land is hard to beat." 

About sundown the crowd scatters. Logan-Pomroy 's motor roars 
up the hill. Without a good-bye Old Amos shuffles away through 
the brush down the river. The big day is over. 



VI 

But the sandhiller lives in the present also. The young folks take 
long car trips to dances that break up at midnight, by command of 
the law, and endeavor to spend most of the time until Sunday morning 
getting home. Sunday is a good day, for those who need it, to sleep 
off bad liquor. The more prosperous ranchers escape the cold by 
going south, the heat by going to the lakes. Some of these are old 
settlers noted for forty years of unfailing hospitality. They still enter- 
tain, when they are home, in comfortable ranch houses with frigid air 



80 Mari Sandoz 

and radios. Once their invitations, usually printed in the local items 
of the community paper, read something like this: 

Party and dance at Bud Jennet's, April 2. 

Dinner from one to seven. 

Beds and breakjast for all. 

Everybody welcome. 

Seventy, eighty people would come in those days, some of them 
forty miles in wagons or on horseback. Next day the men slept 
between suggans in the haymow, the women all over the house. But 
that was when Yvette was a baby. Now she is home from college and 
formal bids, as she calls them, they have rounded up twenty guests 
for about four hours of housewarming in their new home. Some of 
them came a hundred miles, and it was worth the trip. There is an 
orchestra in the music room, with flowers from Alliance, and candles, 
Japanese prints framed in Chinese red, and tapestry panels. 

"Such a beautiful home!" the guests exclaim to Mrs. Jennet. 

And in three hours the maid has the muss all cleared away. 

There is no disputing the fact that the Jennets did well in cattle and 
potash. The callers were all prosperous and charming. Not like 
the Jennets' guests once were, when all who read the notice were 
welcome. Today nobody ate with starvation appetite. Nobody had 
to be thawed out at the hay-burner before he could sing "The Little 
Old Sod Shanty on the Claim" or play "There'll Be a Hot Time" on 
the fiddle or the accordion. Nobody let habitual curses slip and surely 
none of the guests today would ever think of singing: 

fust plant me in a stretch of west, 
Where coyotes mourn their kin. 
Let hawses paw and tromp the mound 
But don't you fence it in. 

These people believe in sealed copper coffins in vaults, and they are 
decidedly not planted but laid to rest. And not one of them forgot 
himself so far as to ask about Bud Jennet, knowing that he must be 
in Alliance with his new lady friend, seeing that he wasn't to the 
housewarming. 




After the Custer Battle 



Albert J. Partoll 



WHILE in quest of information on the Battle of the Little Big 
Horn, generally referred to as the Custer Battle, June 25, 1876, 
in Big Horn County, Montana, when the troops under General George 
A. Custer were annihilated by Sioux Indians, the Montana artist Edgar 
S. Paxson wrote to General Edward S. Godfrey for details of the battle- 
field and personnel. At the time Paxson was preparing to paint 
"Custer's Last Stand," which since has won wide attention for its 
vividness. He was rewarded with an enlightening letter presenting 
data and facts invaluable to him as an artist, and most interesting to 
the follower of Western history. 

General Godfrey's letter describes the battlefield as seen by him and 
his associates immediately after the battle, and is reproduced here with 
acknowledgment and appreciation to Mrs. Edgar S. Paxson of Missoula, 
Montana. 

San Carlos, Arizona 
January 16, 1896 
Mr. E. S. Paxson 
Butte, Montana 
Dear Sir: 

Yours of Sept. 4th, [1895] was forwarded to me and would have 
been answered long ago but for our recent move and the fact that I 
have not had my property unpacked, so that I could have access to 
my notes, etc. It gives me pleasure to attend to your requests. 

When you refer to my article, I suppose you refer to the one pub- 
lished in Century, Jan. 1892, and later quoted by President [E. Ben- 
jamin] Andrews [of Brown University], in Scribner Monthly, I think, 
June, 1895. 

81 



82 Albert J. Paktoll 

I have consulted some of my comrades, of whom a few are left in 
the regiment, that took part in the engagement, as to the details 
asked for. 

I would suggest that you correspond with Major H. J. Nowlan, 7th 
Cavalry, Fort Sheridan, Ills., for further details, especially as to the 
lay of the bodies, for he gave that matter particular attention and made 
a sketch showing the locations at the time of burial, and the following 
year superintended the removal of the remains. 

Your questions are answered in the order made: 

1st: Gen. [George A.] Custer rode "Vic" into the fight: Vic was a 
sorrel, with four white feet and legs and a blaze in the face; he was 
not found on the field. I have heard that he had been identified in the 
possession of some Indian in the hostile camp after they went into the 
British possessions. 

The dogs were left with the wagon train. 

2nd: General Custer carried a Remington Sporting rifle, octagonal 
barrel; two Bulldog, self-cocking, English, white-handled pistols, with 
a ring in the butt for a lanyard; a hunting knife, in a beaded fringed 
scabbard; and a canvas cartridge belt. He wore a whitish gray hat, 
with broad brim and rather low crown, very similar to the Cowboy 
hat; buckskin suit, with a fringed welt in outer seams of trousers and 
arms of blouse; the blouse with double-breasted military buttons, lapels 
general open, turn-down collar, and fringe on bottom of shirt. 

3rd: Captain Tom Custer was dressed about the same as the General. 
He was found near the top of the hill, North and a few yards from the 
General, lying on his face; his features were so pressed out of shape 
as to be almost beyond recognition; a number of arrows had been shot 
in his back, several in his head, one I remember, without the shaft, 
the head bent so that it could hardly be withdrawn; his skull was 
crushed and nearly all the hair scalped, except a very little on the 
nape of the neck. 

The General was not mutilated at all ; he laid on his back, his upper 
arms on the ground, the hands folded or so placed as to cross the body 
above the stomach ; his position was natural and one that we had seen 
hundreds of times while taking cat naps during halts on the march. 
One hit was in the front of the left temple, and one in the left breast 
at or near the heart. 

Boston [Custer], the youngest brother, was dressed similar to the 
other brothers; his body was found about two hundred yards from 



After the Custer Battle 83 

"Custer Hill," between that and the Little Big Horn, at the foot of 
the ridge that runs up from the river, and as it were, forms the lower 
boundary of the battlefield. The body was stript except his white 
cotton socks and they had the name cut off. 

4th: [Capt. George W.] Yates, [Lieut. Col. W. W.] Cooke, [Bvt. 
Lieut. A. E.] Smith, and [2nd Lieut. Wm. Van W. Reily] Reilley 
lay on Custer Hill in the vicinity of the General but nearer the top of 
the hill; the General's body was slightly down the slope, toward the 
river. [1st Lieut. James] Calhoun was in the vicinity of the hill, but 
farther removed from the others, as if he had been killed while going 
toward Custer, from the position of his troop on the left. [2nd Lieut. 
John Jordan] Crittenden was on the hill on the extreme left of the 
line (when facing the river). [Captain Myles W.] Keogh was in a 
depression just north or below Crittenden Hill and on the slope of 
the ridge that forms the defensive line furthest from the river; the 
body was stript, except the socks, and these had the names cut off; in 
life he wore a Catholic medal suspended from his neck; it was not 
removed. 

All of the officers wore the dark blue shirt with rather wide falling 
collar, which when the blouse was worn, was over the blouse collar; 
most of them had cross-sabers and 7, like the old cap ornament, worked 
in white or yellow silk on the points of the collar. 

Yates, Cooke, Smith, [1st Lieut. James E.] Porter, and Calhoun, and 
sometimes Keogh, wore buckskin blouses, but I don't think any of 
them wore other than blue trousers; [2nd Lieut. Henry M.] Harrington 
wore the blue blouse and white canvas trousers, with fringe on the 
outer seams. The day was very warm and few had any kind of blouse. 

In describing the dress, I give it as generally worn, for when the 
bodies were found, after the fight, they were stript. 

I found Porter's buckskin blouse in the village, while destroying the 
property, and from the shot holes in it, he must have had it on and 
must have been shot from the rear, left side, the bullet coming out on 
the left breast near the heart. Dr. [George E.] Lord and Lieutenants 
[James G.] Sturgis and Reilley wore the blue; Dr. Lord wore eye- 
glasses. 

Sergeant Robert Hughes, Troop K, who carried the General's battle 
flag, was killed near the General on the hill. Nearly all the men wore 
the blue, but many, perhaps most of them, had their trousers reenforced 
with white canvas on the seat and on the legs from the knees half 



84 Albert J. Partoll 

way up. Nearly every one wore the short top boot (that was then 
uniform) not high like those now worn, although a few of the officers 
wore the Wellington boot and had white canvas leggings. 

5th: The command was armed with the Springfield and the Colt 
revolver; every officer carried a revolver. NO ONE CARRIED THE 
SABER. (Nearly every illustration I have seen of that fight or cam- 
paign has had the officers and men armed with the saber. Adam's 
painting "Custer's Last Fight," last winter presented to the regiment 
by Mr. Busch, has the men armed with the Winchester and the saber. 
In a historical painting, I think, if I may be allowed the suggestion, 
that the equipments, etc., should conform to those used at the time of 
the fight.) The bridles were different from the present pattern; the 
carbine socket was a small sack about 20-inches long in which was 
carried about 12 pounds of oats, strapped on the cantel; there was no 
hood on the stirrup used by the men. 

6th: There were no "good Indians" left on the field after the time 
we saw it; they were all removed; our dead were alone. There were 
not so many dead ponies found on the field, nor many dead horses, 
indeed surprisingly few, and most of them were on or near Custer's 
Hill. It would seem that they were turned loose that the men might 
better defend themselves, or were wounded and broke away. The 
scene on the left (N & E of Crittenden Hill or near the point on the 
map marked "spring") where the Indians stampeded the "led horses" 
of Troops I and L, must have been a wild one; and their loss must have 
made their hearts very heavy and perhaps caused many a man to give 
up hope at the very beginning. A representation of that scene in the 
background would add immensely to the effect from the realistic point 
of view, whatever it might be from an artistic point! 

Troops F, I and L had bay horses: Troop C had light sorrels, and 
Troop E had greys; the trumpeters rode greys; Cooke rode an almost 
white horse; as a rule the officers rode horses the same color as the 
troops to which they belonged. 

As to "accessories" on the battlefield, there were none. The marble 
white bodies, the somber brown of the dead horses and the dead ponies 
scattered all over the field, but thickest on and near Custer Hill, and 
the scattering tufts of reddish brown grass on the almost ashy white 
soil depicts a scene of loneliness and desolation that "bows down the 
heart in sorrow." I can never forget the sight: The early morning 
was bright, as we ascended to the top of the highest point whence the 



After the Custer Battle 85 

whole field came into view, with the sun to our backs. "What are 
those ?" exclaimed several as they looked at what appeared to be white 
boulders. Nervously I took the field glasses and glanced at the objects; 
then almost dropped them, and laconically said: "The Dead!" Col. 
[B.] Weir who was near sitting on his horse, exclaimed: "Oh, how 
white they look! How white!" No, there were no "accessories"; 
everything of value was taken away: arms, ammunition, equipment 
and clothing. Occasionally, there was a body with a bloody under- 
shirt or trousers or socks, but the name was invariably cut out. The 
naked mutilated bodies, with their bloody fatal wounds, were nearly 
unrecognizable, and presented a scene of sickening, ghastly horror! 
There were perhaps, a half dozen spades and shovels, as many axes, 
a couple of picks, and a few hatchets in the whole command; with 
these and knives and tin cups we went over the field and gave the 
bodies, where they lay, a scant covering of mother earth and left them, 
in that vast wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization, friends 
and homes — to the wolves! 

Yours Truly 

E. S. Godfrey [Signed] 
Cap't 7th Cavalry 
Brevet Major U. S. Army 
P. S. I leave for Fort Grant, Ariz., next week and about the last of 
Feb. for Fort Apache, Ariz. 

E. S. G. 




The Honey House 



Mary King 

HE came into her line of vision walking backward, easing himself 
around the young hackberry and pecan saplings in the over- 
grown path with his hands stretched out behind him. When he 
drew even with where she squatted in the blackberry vines, her 
gathered apron careful with turkey eggs, her hand reached into the 
nest to transfer another, she saw that he was laughing. His brown 
face was split in the middle over his teeth and creased about his eyes 
in profound and soundless mirth. The idiot, she thought, I wonder 
what he's been up to. 

"Look out!" she said aloud. "You'll hang up on the berry vines." 

With his heels planted on the path the way they had been going, 
the man swung his body on his hips and looked at her. He wasn't 
so young as she had first thought, seeing him from behind and then 
in profile: He was almost old. She dropped her eyes and completed 
the gesture interrupted when she had caught sight of him, lifting the 
egg her fingers had been circling and placing it in her apron with 
the others. His eyes traveled down her to the nest. 

"Turkeys are no good here; they go wild," he said. 

"I'm doin' all right." 

"Looks that way. Hidin' out on you. They'll do it every time. 
You must have come a good piece ... no house short of two miles." 
He drew a sack of tobacco from his shirt pocket and rolled a cigarette 
with awkward and inexpert fingers. 

"I came quite a way," she admitted. "What were you laughin' at, 
backin' down the path like that, laughin' all to yourself?" 

"Oh, that! . . . Oh, nothin' much." He was laughing again. 

Crouched beside him on the path, she looked up curiously into his 
changed face. Smoke slid from the end of his cigarette and vanished 

86 



The Honey House 87 

between them. The frown and the question slipped from her face, 
and she laughed with him. 

"This is my land," he said. 

"I judged it was." 

"I've never seen you around here before." 

"I've never seen you either." She stood up, wanting her words to 
seem final, yet half-afraid that he would take them so. At her full 
height she was as tall as he, and broader. He was narrow and light 
moving, a quick man among trees. She didn't mind being caught 
trespassing on his land. 

"That's different," he was saying; "everybody knows me." 

"I don't. I never laid eyes on you before. You might be Adam and 
I wouldn't know." 

"You'll know me if you live around here. You like my land all 
right." 

"That ain't my fault. Turkeys are aimless creatures. A fence 
means nothin' to a turkey." 

"Where do you live?" He looked at her shrewdly, noting with 
approval her deep body and strong hands, the lines in her fresh- 
colored face. 

"Through the woods a piece," she answered. "At the bridge turn-off 
on the bayou road. Me and my husband just took the place." 

"If you just took it, why has your turkey hen laid a nestful of eggs ? 
She must be a quick one." 

"You're kind of quick yourself. The turkeys came with the place. 
We're from Sudan, in the next county. Thought we'd try farming 
for a while. Searls did. I don't care." 

"I know your land; I used to own it. I sold it for taxes . . . stump 
land. . . . What have you planted?" 

"Cotton, some corn." 

"You won't get far without niggers. Nigger work, stump land is. 
No white man's job." 

"I guess you got niggers to do your work ? I guess you don't turn a 
hand yourself?" She eyed his faded blue shirt and khaki pants, both 
molded to him from much wear, and bulging at the pockets as a 
man's clothes do when they are put on from the clothesline without 
pressing. She was half-turned from him now, speaking over her 
shoulder in the way of one who should go and yet liked the sound of 
voices in the quiet place where she had not expected to find them, and 



88 Mary King 

found pleasant the consideration of her words by this man whose sud- 
den presence had called them forth. 

While speaking of the land his face had been sober, but now it 
creased again into laughter and she knew that this was what she 
had been lingering to see. "I got niggers or they got me, whicheverway 
you look at it," he said. "Why don't you come see my place? It's 
only a little piece through the woods, closer than yours by a good 
three-quarter mile. Come, and I'll give you a drink before you walk 
back." 

"The eggs'll get cold. I want to set them under a hen while they're 

still warm I'd like a drink, though I've been real thirsty for a 

long time." 

He looked at the eggs gathered close to her body. "They'll keep 
warm. I'd like you to come." 

He stooped and swept the vines away from the path, and she, drawn 
forward by the motion of his arm, stepped up beside him through the 
gate he had opened. 

"All right, I'll come. I guess there's time." 

When the path narrowed he walked ahead, holding the branches 
back for her. She followed dreamily, glad for an excuse to prolong 
her quiet walking in the open. It was not often she got away from the 
house for this long, on an errand that did not carry with its consum- 
mation a definite hour of return. Since dinnertime she had been 
searching, and by the sun it was now well past four. It was not often 
she got away from Searls for this long either. Heavy and cumbersome, 
he usually trod in time with her thoughts even when he did not ac- 
company her in person. But she had shed him somewhere back among 
the trees during her hours of lonely hunting, and now, even though 
she was a little tired, she felt herself following lightly in the narrow 
tracks of the man ahead, bending aside to avoid a tree when he bent 
aside, stooping when he stooped under a low branch, her body adapting 
itself unconsciously to his swinging motion. 

Half-drunk on sunlight, her lids lowered over her eyes, she followed 
him. The way was farther than she had thought it would be, or 
maybe it seemed far because the sight of no familiar landmarks clocked 
the light monotony of her passage. 

As she walked forward, her thoughts doubled and retraced their 
way to the turkey nest in the briars and to her first sight of the man's 
back, repossessing the time and place of meeting. By the time they 



The Honey House 89 

returned to her the blue and brown figure ahead was clothed in long 
familiarity. Her eyes, rejecting the strangeness of her surroundings, 
accepted him from the alert back of his head to his run-down heels 
as her feet accepted without question or hesitation the uneven turnings 
of the path. 

He strode ahead, drawing her along behind him in a wake of rustling 
foliage. She wondered amusedly what he carried in his hip pocket. 
One side of his flat buttocks bulged in a grotesque caricature of a 
woman's swaying hip. Probably an extra packet of tobacco and a 
bandana handkerchief, she thought. 

They passed through the young growth into taller trees less choked 
with underbrush, the land looking as if it might have been cleared 
at one time, and he dropped back and walked beside her. She evened 
her steps in care for the eggs in her apron, and now it was he who 
suited his stride to the shorter and more cautious rhythm of her 
motion. The land sank away toward a point she knew must be the 
river, for its color changed, glowing a deep red through the scratchy 
covering. 

They stepped into the furrows of a cornfield. The man raised his 
hand in silent greeting to the plowing Negro who stopped his mule, 
removed his hat, and remained motionless, staring after them. She 
saw a cabin off to one side of the clearing, and from this point also felt 
herself observed, although a quick glance revealed nothing at the 
window but pink curtains looped back upon a shadowy interior, and 
strung across the door, a tattered sheet that swung gently outward in 
a draft. 

"There's my house," he said. He stopped on the edge of the field 
and surveyed the scene before him, and there was that about him 
which let her know that he had stood on just this spot many times 
before, labeling all he saw with passive irony. She had a feeling that 
if she had come on this scene by herself her eyes would have passed 
over it, that the man beside her alone had power to call it into visibility, 
himself being the core of the picture, and the rest taking shape from 
his regard. 

She saw a big ruined house on a knoll beside the river. Around the 
house, partly hiding it, grew a grove of moss-hung live oaks. The 
trees were enormous, both the living and the dead, and their shadow 
spread a contagion of darkness upon the bare ground around the en- 
circled house. The house itself was like a picture of a house that 



90 Mary King 

children draw, all lines from a solid base leaning obliquely toward the 
river, as a deaf man might lean to listen with a hand cupped to his 
ear. From the look of the outside she knew that the sound of a foot- 
step in a lower room would echo to the attic, and that a man living 
alone in it must hear the reflection of his presence thrown back at him 
from all sides, must live day after day surrounded by the sound of 
his own coming and going. 

"I know now who you are," she said. "You're Andrew Taboney. 
I heard about you." 

"And who are you?" 

"I'm Ellen Dick." 

He led the way up the path, across the porch, and into the wide hall 
that ran the depth of the house and showed her, at the end of it, the 
cut bank of a bayou grown over with elders in white bloom. They 
stood just inside the door, she, holding the apronful of eggs, blinking 
her sun-filled eyes in the unaccustomed dimness, smelling the musty 
fragrance of old wood, and nearer, the bright bitter odor of the man 
himself. 

"Listen!" he said. 

As the outside sounds dropped away she became aware of a low 
humming, a soft monotonous droning that seemed to come from all 
around her. 

"What's that?" she asked. 

"Bees." 

"In the house? Where do you keep them?" 

"I don't. They keep themselves. They're in the walls." 

"Millions, they sound like. How did they get in? Don't they 
bother you? Don't they ever sting?" 

"Through the weatherboarding, cracks around the chimney, through 
the front door here — it's seldom closed. No, they don't sting. Just 
make honey." 

"Well! So you could live on honey!" 

"I don't disturb it. Why should I ? I've plenty to eat." 

"Oh, I don't know. Seems funny, that's all . . . all that honey right 
here in your walls, a regular honeycomb, and you not touchin' it." 

"Any woman would say the same." 

He walked ahead of her through the hall and out to a pump in the 
back yard. He kicked a box and motioned her toward it. 

"Sit down while I pump the water cool." 



The Honey House 91 

The eggs had grown a burdensome weight. Supporting her apron 
with a hand, she eased herself down upon the box and looked around 
her. Chickens scratched in a wire-enclosed yard. In a skimpy garden 
weeds and vegetables fought silently. The elder-grown bayou was 
behind her; from it sounded the working hum of bees. Here, then, 
was where most of the honey came from. Elder-flower honey. On 
one side of the clearing the woods came close; on the other side ran 
the river, with woods beginning again on its far bank. The place 
was peaceful and desolate in the late afternoon sunlight, disturbed 
only by the sound of bees and the rasping strokes of the pump. 

Her eyes closed sleepily, shutting out all except the slender arc of 
the man's body curving up and down over the pump handle, his blue 
shirt bright against the green beyond. She felt tired and heavy, as if 
she would like never to move again, as if all the steps she had ever 
taken had been leading her toward this spot and now she was content 
to sit and rest without thinking. She wished vaguely for an answering 
quiet in the man, but now he was rinsing a tin cup, filling it, and 
bringing it to her. He stood over her, offering the cool water, and she 
took the cup and tilted it to her mouth. 

"It's quiet here," she sighed, when she had finished drinking. 

"You're tired. Why don't you put those eggs down and rest a while ? 
They'll keep warm in the sun." 

"No. I guess not." 

"I've got a broody hen. We'll put 'em under her and they'll be all 
right. Come, stand up! Then you can rest." 

Suddenly wide awake, Ellen rose to her feet. She searched the man's 
eyes intently for a moment, and then spoke, setting her words down 
softly and carefully to bridge the silence between them, a way held open 
for retreat. 

"She won't take them. They're strange; not her own." 

"Don't worry." 

Without waiting for her reply, he strode to the chicken yard and 
unlatched the gate. His voice came to her muffled from his head 
lowered over a coop. "There's plenty of room. Just bring 'em here." 

She came and stood beside him. She passed the eggs to him one at 
a time and he, taking them, pushed them gently under the hen. The 
hen drove her beak at his hand; then, swelling her warm feathers, 
accepted the eggs and settled into her former position— finality, com- 
pletion in the closing down of her wings. The woman's lids drooped. 



92 Mary King 

She watched the man dreamily, noting the sure way his hands moved 
about the box, drawing the sliding door half-shut again, setting a pan 
of water within reach. He straightened up and wiped his hands down 
the front of his thighs. 

"You got a handkerchief in your pocket," she said. 

"You know, don't you ?" 

"Yeah." 

He pulled the blue bandana from his hip pocket and passed it over 
his face. 

"You're a handy man. Not many men could touch a settin' hen 
without throwin' her into fits." 

He laughed. He came close to her and put his hands on her 
shoulders. "You're a good woman, Ellen. I saw that right away. A 
good woman for a man to have, a smart woman. Your turkeys would 
do better here." 

"What made you laugh? I been studying what could make you 
laugh like I seen you laughin' back yonder in the woods." 

His body was hard and inquisitive. As it had happened on the 
path in the woods, she found herself laughing with him. 

"What a strange man you are!" she said. "And you got silver in 
your pockets; I hear it jingle . . . walkin' through the woods back- 
wards, laughin', with silver on your leg . . . I'll stay." 

On the second morning Andrew left the house early with his gun. 
Ellen worked for a while in the garden, pulling the grass away from 
young carrots and beets, and when the sun began to burn her back, 
she crept under the elders on the bayou bank to rest. 

"Hello! Hello! Anybody home?" The voice roused her and she 
sat up. Searls was standing at the back door of the house. 

"Here!" she answered, and he came toward her, walking through 
the garden. 

"Ellen, I been worried sick! What're you doin' here? I been 
searchin' the woods; thought you was lost." 

"I been all right, safe enough. I like it here." 

"This is Andrew Taboney's place, ain't it? I haven't told anybody; 
nobody knows you been gone. What made you run away? These 
woods're full of niggers. But nobody knows you been gone." 

"As for niggers, I seen maybe two or three. They tend to their 
business and I tend to mine." 



The Honey House 93 

"God knows, it's a forsaken place," he said, "away off from any- 
wheres." His head turned to follow the steady flight of bees between 
elders and house. A bee, heavy with nectar, clung to his leg, and he 
beat it off with his hat. "Where all these bees come from?" 
"The house. They live in the house, in the walls." 
"I hear them." He looked at her with his brows drawn together, 
unable to find her familiar in her new surroundings. She had always 
been a busy woman, and here it was high morning and she was not 
only idle but sleepy, lying in the sun of a strange man's garden, leaving 
all work to the bees. 
"Where's Taboney ?" 

"It's a pleasant sound. ... I never seen so many bees before." 
"Ellen, is this a way to do me ? Come on back and I'll forget about 
it. I know crazy things come into a woman's head at times and she 
acts without cause. We'll just forget about it, and you come on home 
with me. I can't handle all the work myself. The corn we planted 
needs choppin', and who'll tend the turkeys?" 

He was not angry, she saw; only hurt and puzzled. He stood before 
her looking humbly on the ground, slapping his leg with his doubled- 
up hat. His pleading voice changed her pity to contempt. Her eyes 
picked the square of neat stitches in the knee of his overalls. Often 
she had wished that she need not patch his pants, for it seemed to her 
that she patched his dignity instead. Going or coming, she had fenced 
his tatters even from her own eyes, yet all her protection had not served 
to hold him up. Guarded, he still drooped. His heavy shoulders hung 
slack. His legs bent at the knees. She thought of Andrew's straight 
back. 

"Go on home, Searls," she said. "You had your time. You gave 
me nothin' but work, a heavy weight on me day and night. It's peace- 
ful here. You go on home. Maybe I'll come back some day." 
"Ellen. . . ." 

"Go on home. You got no cause to be here." 
"Well," he sighed, "if your mind's made up, it won't do me any 
good to see Taboney, no good I can see. I don't want a fight. I'm a 
peaceful man, and much as I hate to see you here I won't fight about 
it. You come on home when you get ready. I guess it'll be the same 
with me." 

"All right," she said contemptuously. She watched him off through 
the trees. Coming toward a woman a man might stoop, might bend 



94 Mary King 

forward with his hands before him, feeling his way — but not leaving 
a woman. When a man left a woman his back should be straight. 

That night she told Andrew of the visit and they laughed together. 
'What makes you hate him so?" Andrew asked curiously. 

"I don't hate him; he just tires me, he's hard to move around. I 
mean I always felt him heavy on my mind, hard to push around, like. 
Oh, I don't know. Bein' around him was like bein' out somewheres 
with an umbrella you started out carryin', thinkin' it would rain, and 
then it turned off not to rain, and me with a big heavy umbrella and 
no place to lay it down. There was just no gettin' rid of him till I 
came away. . . . That was it." 

"And I'm a little man so I don't bother you? You can just forget 
all about me? I don't weigh on you, so you like me ? Is that it?" 

The room was warm and quiet. Through the open hall door the 
low moon poked a finger of light across the worn boards of the inner 
threshold. From the woods an owl spoke. 

"You ain't here at all," she answered. "You're somewhere else, I 
don't know where. What makes you laugh so much, over nothin' I 
can see ? But I like it. What made you laugh back there in the woods 
that day ? I'd give a lot to know." 

Life in the new place settled evenly about Ellen's shoulders through 
the days that followed, and she gave herself up to the release of com- 
plete concealment. She had lived always in town, within call of neigh- 
bors, her thoughts pushed this way and that by currents from passing 
vehicles and voices. Now, for the first time in her life, she knew 
quietness. The sun, the droning bees, the man, Andrew Taboney, 
moving lightly in his direct yet aimless fashion, all conspired to put 
a kind of sleep upon her. For a time, it is true, the presence of the 
bees in the house annoyed her with a sense of unfitness. Her fancy, 
piercing the walls, saw them weaving in insolent clusters that dared 
her broom. But soon she came to think differently. The unending 
hum of the bees' labor soothed her as no complete silence could have 
done. 

No road ran past the house. The trails that wound to and from the 
Negro cabins — and she had come to find that there were a dozen or 
so of these scattered along the river bank, each in its small clearing of 
field and garden — served only to deepen her sense of isolation. Any 
trouble which might have found its way to her through the labyrinth 



The Honey House 95 

of footpaths, the trees by the house themselves deflected, so that she 
woke and drowsed and slept at the very core of a humming quiet. 

Day after day this quiet was broken only by the rattle of trace chains 
as Francis worked the corn near the house, the thud of mule's feet 
down the furrows, the crow calls, and the ruffling sound of leaves. The 
soft voices of the Negroes she sometimes heard, but she saw none of 
them close except Francis. The woman called Weezie, who was his 
wife, kept well out of sight. There was a child in the cabin too, she 
learned, but she never saw him except at a distance, following Francis 
in the field. 

Except for the two rooms in which she and Andrew lived, the big 
house was bare and empty. There was little work for her to do after 
the cooking of meals and washing of dishes was over. Andrew sent 
Francis to town for the things she needed, and she seldom thought of 
her own house or of Searls. Sometimes Andrew went off with his gun 
alone in the woods, sometimes he took her with him. Or again, he 
might work for a day or two in the field helping Francis, or with her 
in the garden. 

At one end of the garden, on the bank of the bayou, was a hidden 
place under the elders where they often lay together. At such times, 
while her hands searched his hard body to find the soft places, she 
puzzled over this ability of his to forget work for play. Alone, or 
with Searls, she would not have dared to leave work unfinished once 
she had begun it. At first, even with Andrew, she had been prodded 
by the guilty remembrance of tasks dropped before their completion. 
But after a while she came to accept his haphazard way of living as she 
had accepted the industry of the bees — the one seeming to comple- 
ment the other — and the unaccountable partitions of their days made 
time seem longer and more richly colored. By evening, often she 
could not remember what she had done in the morning, the morning 
seemed so far away. And this fact also served her for concealment. 
If she could not retrace her steps to the beginning of the day just 
passed, how could she be expected to find her way back through the 
many days that had intervened since she had followed Andrew down 
the path from the turkey nest, or remember the uneven windings of 
the path itself, on past the turkey nest and back to Searls? These 
vague thoughts came and went in her mind as she drew her hiding 
more closely about her. 



96 Mary King 

The turkey eggs hatched. She counted fourteen. The hen did not 
lead them to the woods as a turkey mother might have done, but kept 
them close about the yard and garden where they thrived unmolested. 
She tended them with pleasure. 

Often she would coax Andrew to talk about himself, watching his 
face intently for the clue to his laughter which his words never gave 
her. She learned that his family was an old one, house and lands 
coming to him through his grandfather, whose father had come to 
Texas from Virginia long before the War Between the States and 
hollowed out his plantation from the rich river-bottom land. Yes, 
there had been other plantations along the river, but they had gone 
back to woods. Yes, these Negroes were the descendants of his grand- 
father's slaves. He, Andrew, gave them the land. It was really theirs 
anyhow. They paid no rent. He had been away to school. He had 
joined the Army and gone to France. When the war was over he had 
come home. No, he had never married. Why should he? Yes, he 
owned much land; he was land-poor. Some of the land along the 
road he had sold; most of it nobody would buy. But it was quiet 
here, with not too many worries. Country Negroes were a peaceful 
people for the most part, easy to get along with. He was content, his 
own master, his time belonging to no man except himself. 

". . . to no woman either," he said. They were lying under the 
elders. She leaned on one elbow and studied his face, what part of it 
she could see under his upflung arm, and wondered if any woman had 
ever owned his time. 

As always, when she saw his face unmoved by the quick changes 
given it by laughter, she was struck by its age. He could hardly be 
much older than herself; yet now, looking down on him, he seemed 
years older. Suddenly, she knew that she wanted him to be old, would 
be glad if he never laughed again. Old, he seemed forlorn; his life, 
shaped by no purpose, utterly wasted. A man needing a woman. 
Looking at his few dusty fowls, his shell of a house, his ill-tended 
garden, all exposed for what they were in the pitiless sunshine, shf 
tried to conjure up some way of thought by which he and all he owned 
should not seem wasted, and she could think of nothing to absolve 
him except her own forbearance. In quick pity and tenderness she 
bent down and kissed his cheek. 

He uncovered his face and looked at her with blue, mocking eyes, 



The Honey House 97 

then crooked his elbow about her neck and drew her down beside 
him, ruffling her hair with his free hand. 

"You're good, Ellen, good and quiet, good to have. Better than any 
white woman I ever had." Laughter was beginning to curl around 
his eyes. 

"No!" she said sharply, pulling away from him. "Don't! You're 
always laughin' at me." 

But he was bending over her, laughing into her face. "You want 
my time, Ellen? You got all my time now. What more do you want?" 

Transformed by one of his quick changes, he was completely strange 
to her. About his whole body when he moved was a nameless quality 
she knew despairingly would never be old. Even as she drew him to 
her she was deeply and resentfully aware of her own face no longer 
young, of her own thick body which had once been as slender as his. 

She shut her eyes against the sunlight. 

The young turkeys shed their baby fluff and grew long-legged and 
rangy. The hen had a hard time keeping up with them. They left 
the hen and took to the woods. Ellen did not want to lose one of the 
fourteen, and so she searched for them and drove them home. They 
came to know the sound of her voice. 

In the evenings Ellen and Andrew bathed by the pump in the back 
yard. Seeing the man white in the lamplight from the window, she 
knew that the years had done him a service. The years had pared 
him thin, concentrating him in the narrowing enclosure of his body 
until the very concentration seemed a purpose of itself, needing no 
utterance beyond the speaking line of shoulder and hip as he moved. 
He was as aloof and intent within himself as some hard, clean animal; 
and she, conscious of the soft spreading of her own body, was again 
resentful that in her very nature she should seem to reach, he to with- 
draw. And she knew that she was always reaching, always striving 
to find her way to the mysterious source of his youth from which his 
laughter came. Her first curiosity, lulled to sleep for a time, awoke, 
strengthened into hunger. The man had a secret she was taut with 
desire to discover and possess. Sometimes she thought his laughter 
came from her, and was pleased even in her resentment at being thus 
fed upon; and then she would remember that she had seen his laughter 



98 Mary King 

before he had laid eyes upon her, and would be more baffled than 
before. 

The elder flowers dropped away. The succulent stalks hardened in 
the August heat and stood up to bear their seed, and then wilted quietly 
down over their roots, their strength retreating underground to wait 
out the winter. 

The coming of fall caught Ellen unaware. One morning she stepped 
outdoors and crunched an acorn underfoot. Overnight, a great hand 
had shaken the oaks. All around her the ground was heaped with 
small, hard, round bodies, brown and shining, tipped with yellow at 
the butt. Dead bees, they looked like. And then she realized that the 
humming in the walls of the house had fallen away. The bees were 
quieting down for the winter. 

The next day a cold rain kept the man and the woman indoors. 
For a while they slept, curled together in bed. In the afternoon 
Andrew dressed and wandered restlessly about the house. His foot- 
steps echoed in the silence. Watching him, she partook of his restless- 
ness. He moved much, yet nothing spoke of his passing: no new 
order of things, no gathering together, no harvest. The sound of rain 
could not erase the lost murmuring of the bees. The soft thud of 
falling acorns from the trees close by the house was like a long burial 
that would continue without ceasing until the old trees had cleansed 
themselves of the summer's fruit. When supper was over, Andrew 
said: 

"Weezie will come tomorrow and wash the blankets. She knows 
where they are." 

"I can do it; I can wash." 

"No need. Weezie'll do it as she always does." 

Early the next morning Ellen awoke to the sound of voices on the 
back porch. Weezie had come and was speaking to Andrew. 

"Summer's all right maybe . . . but winter ... we stay in that cabin 
all winter we need a new roof . . . and other things. . . ." 

"All right, I'll fix your roof." 

"We stayin' the winter?" 

"Send Francis over after dinner and I'll give him the order for 
shingles." 

Ellen dressed and went out to them. The rain had stopped; the 
sun was coming up over the trees into a clear sky; the air was cold 
and sparkling. Andrew had gone away without his breakfast. Weezie 



The Honey House 99 

was bending over a box piled in the stacked rubbish against the house 
wall. At the back door a little boy dressed in overalls and jumper 
was picking up acorns. Weezie heard Ellen's step. 

"Run on back home, you!" she called to the child. "White woman 
don't want you hangin' 'round her house." 

"I don't mind, let him stay." 

"He better off home. Mist' Andrew say he better off home." The 
little boy ran obediently around the corner of the house and disappeared. 

Ellen was glad for a woman to talk with, and wondered why she had 
not thought of making friends with Weezie before. "What's this 
about your roof, Weezie?" 

The Negress was young and comely. Her skin was the polished 
color of brown oak leaves, but her face was sullen. She whipped 
blankets from the box and tossed them into a tub. 

"Yes'm, it leaks bad. We ain't never lived in that shack till last 
summer." 

"No? You come from town?" 

Weezie did not answer. The rest of the morning she ignored Ellen. 
When the blankets were washed and hung on the line, she went away 
and Ellen was left alone. 

All day Andrew did not come back. She saw that his gun was 
missing and surmised that he had gone to the marsh for duck. For 
the past week long strings of duck and geese had been going by, 
settling down over the woods to the south. 

She wandered through the empty rooms of the big house, now and 
then tapping the walls, but she got no response from the bees. The 
sun turned warm and the wind dropped, but she did not go out. The 
earth seemed no longer friendly. The garden furrows ran water. The 
place where the elders had stood on the bayou bank was sodden with 
wet leaves. Winter would keep her walking. 

In the upper rooms the windowpanes buzzed with drunken wasps 
trying to get outside. The sound they made was thin and angry, unlike 
the full lazy droning of the bees. She found an old paper, folded it, 
and brushed at .the wasps, grinding them underfoot when they fell 
to the floor, shrinking at the sound of crunching bodies but working 
doggedly until she had cleared all windows, and the floors were lit- 
tered with disjointed heads and wings and stinging abdomens. All 
afternoon she worked at her useless labor, and went below to wait for 
Andrew only at dark. ' 



100 Mart King 

The chill returned with evening. She carried in the soft dry blankets 
from the line. When she had tolled the young turkeys into the yard 
she brought wood and built a fire in the fireplace of the room where 
they slept. It was ten o'clock before Andrew came. He came empty- 
handed. 

"I thought you'd be asleep," he said. 

"No." 

"I stopped at a cabin down the river and had the woman cook for 
me. One duck— all I got. They're scary. Too many hunters out 
from town." 

"Did you have enough to eat?" 

"Oh, sure. . . . The fire feels good." 

The morning was a long way off, farther away from the evening 
than she could remember a morning ever having been, but she could 
retrace her way in a straight line to its beginning. She did this, sitting 
by the fire while Andrew drew off his boots. By the time he came to 
sit on the floor beside her, closeness was no longer between them. 
Between them shivered the long bright lonely day: the unknown table 
at which he had eaten, the miles of wet woods he had tramped, the 
dead bodies of wasps, Weezie's sullen brown face, the little boy hurry- 
ing obediently away. All things today had seemed to hurry from her. 
Through no fault of hers the distance had come. 

He lay stretched beside her on the floor. The firelight glinted on 
his belt buckle. Shielding her eyes with her hand, she watched the 
shining metal rise and fall with his deep breathing. Tired out, he 
slept on the floor. Any other man would have gone straight to bed, 
she thought. It was like Andrew to fling himself carelessly on the 
floor like a dog and drop into slumber with her eyes upon him. 

Wind whistled through the crack under the door and set the fire- 
light dancing. Upstairs the windows rattled. She fancied she could 
still hear the acorns falling. The light flickered on Andrew's sleeping 
face, fresh-colored from his day in the windy woods, now curiously 
smoothed out and rested, young, in its quietness, as she had never 
seen it before except in laughter. Hating his aloofness, she stooped 
over him to unbutton his clothes and get him into bed. She slipped 
the catch of his belt buckle and he stirred and sat up, wide awake 
after his nap. 

He was too young for her. There was something almost frightening 
in the youth that made love to her in this ruined house. He was like 



The Honey House 101 

a ghost, a strange bright ghost, untouched by time or by any of the 
worries that made an ordinary man grow stooped and heavy and easy 
to possess. 

In the morning she looked at his sleeping face, trying to identify 
him with the man of the night before. The man she saw was old, an 
object of pity, almost of contempt. Which of the two men held her 
— the young or the old ? She could not solve this puzzle. 

For some reason Francis did not come to get the order for the 
shingles. Throughout the day Ellen listened for his step, or for 
Weezie's, but neither came. Andrew had disappeared after breakfast. 
She was again alone. Toward dark she went to drive in the turkeys. 
She passed around the dry cornfield, made a wide circle in the woods, 
and came out behind the cabin where Weezie and Francis lived. As 
she walked through the back yard, past the lighted window, the shin- 
ing of a mallard's wing caught her eye. She went home wondering. 
She found the turkeys on the bayou bank and drove them into the 
yard. Francis might easily have shot the duck. She had no real 
reason to believe that Weezie had cooked Andrew's supper the night 
before. 

"What's the matter, Ellen?" Andrew came in silently, hung his hat 
on the nail behind the door, and brushed her cheek with his lips as 
she stood beside the stove. His lips were the hard cold lips of a man 
who has been away in the wind. 

"Nothin'," she answered. 

"Got a grouch ? Why don't you be like you used to be ? You were 
a lot of fun, I seem to remember." 

"Where have you been all day?" 

"Now don't start that. Since you ask, I've been to town to see about 
shingles. I've no money for shingles now. I had to arrange an ac- 
count. Weezie's house is in bad shape; needs a new roof." 

"There's things you could do here in your own house . . . new 
windowpanes, a little paint ... a lot of things." 

"Why should that matter to you?" 

"No reason. I just happened to think." 

"Well, don't! It won't get you anywhere." 

When they had eaten he took a paper from his coat pocket, sat down 
beside the lamp, and began to read. He was smoking a new pipe, 
also brought from town. His shadow to Ellen was strange upon the 



102 Mary King 

wall. She sat apart from him, hugging her knees, listening to the wind. 

"Miss Ellen, Miss Ellen!" called a soft voice outside. 

Ellen moved from her place by the fire and went to see who the 
caller might be. Weezie's little boy stood on the top step blinking up 
at her. This was the first time she had seen him close. She looked 
at him curiously. 

"What do you want?" 

"Mama say to find out if Mist' Andrew got the shingles?" 

Ellen closed the door to a crack so that Andrew might not hear. 
She still had a light on the boy's face. She stepped closer to him, im- 
pelled by something deeper now than curiosity. She took his face be- 
tween her hands and regarded him intently. He wriggled, laughed, 
and tried to break away, but she held him. 

"What's your name?" 

The little boy rolled his eyes. Yes, those were Andrew's eyes in a 
face colored like honey ... the shape of his head ... his laughter. 
Here was what had drawn her down the path from the turkey nest; 
here was Andrew's youth. It was as simple as that. By the child's 
clear face the man was forever divested of every claim to what he had 
given away. His laughter ? What fool thing he stretched his mouth 
over meant nothing to her now. Having thought this, she considered 
with surprise that it was true, and knew also that her knowledge was 
of long growing and for months had needed only a sight of the child's 
face to spring into anger. Standing with her back to the door of the 
house, her skirt whipping her cold legs, she stared across the child's 
head into the whimpering wood and waited for her anger to come 
to her. 

"Mama say to ask if you goin' to stay all winter?" The child 
watched her eagerly, hunching his thin little shoulders under his 
jumper coat, dancing on his bare feet to keep them warm. 

"Why does she want to know that?" Ellen spoke the question softly. 
She knew the answer — had known it long. The bees were not the 
only strangers sheltered by the old house from winter. Well, winter 
had come and Weezie was tired waiting. 

"We lived here till you came las' summer." 

"Yes, I know." She felt no anger. She was silent for a minute, and 
then said slowly, "Well, run along home. Tell your mother the 
shingles'll be out in a day or two." 



The Honey House 103 

The child ran away through the darkness toward the cabin. Ellen 
closed the door and went to sit again by the fire. Andrew still sprawled 
in his chair by the lamp. He had heard nothing. She watched the 
crease in his brown cheek deepen and darken as his lips fondled the 
stem of his pipe. Every now and then his mouth opened to let out a 
plump cloud of smoke with the faint plop of a stopper pulled out of 
a bottle. Ellen counted the sounds, thinking idly how settled the man 
looked, how old and heavy, heavier than Searls. With this thought 
came pity, not for him, but for herself. She huddled her shoulders 
and drew the collar of her dress about her throat. One of the stray 
cats that lived about the place pushed open the door, paddled by her, 
softly close, brushing her skirt, and settled itself on the warm bricks 
before the fire. Full and contented it lay at her feet, dabbing its licked 
paws over its ears. 

"Your cat caught him a field rat," the woman said heavily. The 
man looked up from his paper. 
"What? ... Oh! He'd do better to catch the rats in the house." 
"I know," said Ellen. "I know now." 

"What's that?" He lifted his eyes again from the paper and looked 
at her. "You say something?" 
"No, I guess not. No, I didn't say. . . ." 

They sat apart, each owning a separate warmth from the burning 
logs. Between them the smoke drew fiercely up the chimney and 
away into the windy night. Ellen closed her eyes and listened to the 
soft rushing of the flames. She saw the footpath winding back among 
the trees, away from the river, through the pecan and hackberry sap- 
lings that had grown maybe an inch taller, on past the briars where 
the turkey nest had been, and back the way she had come. The old 
man who sat reading by the fire would not try to stop her. 

The sky was lightening when she rose from bed, dressed, and went 
silently from the house. From the crib she took four ears of corn, and 
she opened the latch on the chicken yard and spoke to the turkeys 
already down from their perches and stirring about uneasily. Making 
a trail with the corn she led them through the yard, across the corn 
stubble, past the sleeping cabin and into the woods. Her feet found 
easily the path she had taken in the summer, and she went along it, 
dropping the bright yellow grains of corn, drawing the hungry young 
turkeys after her through the still woods. 




The Country Doctor 



Ivan Beede 

WHILE Dr. Moon waited for a telephone call from the 
Masheks' it began to snow. A shadow fell across the book 
he was reading and slowly, slowly the pale winter light thick- 
ened into obscurity. He raised his head to look out the window, 
then with an effort swung it around and glanced about the. room. 
Although the electric switch was only a few feet away, he felt too 
hopeless to move. Instead, he let his head fall to one side in a gesture 
of fatigue, and closed his eyes. 

All this Sunday afternoon, alone in the house, he had been expect- 
ing the Mashek call. Sooner or later it would come and he would have 
to look at Lily Mashek's deluded smile again. There was nothing 
more he could do for her; she was beyond aid; but just the same he 
would go. He felt obliged to go, because last night he had acted like 
a fool, on her account. 

With his head fallen limply, his body slumped in the chair, he 
waited helplessly for the call to come. He could think of nothing else. 
The case depressed him, with a depression which he could not shake 
off, which had been increasing for days. 

It was not Lily Mashek so much as the moment she had chosen to 
die. She had forced herself on his attention just after the long siege 
of influenza, which had left him physically exhausted, discouraged, 
and worried by new, strange doubts. 

During the epidemic he had been the only available doctor, the 
others being still absent in the army, and, as usual, he had taken his 
work too seriously. He had seemed an almost omnipresent figure in 
his big fur coat and hunter's cap, his mild face masklike with fatigue. 
There was no distance he would not drive, no extra effort he would 
not make, but too many of his patients died. They died by the 
dozens, throughout the fall and these early months of winter. 

104 



The Country Doctor 105 

The growing toll of deaths threw him into a fit of black discourage- 
ment. He was certain that almost any other doctor would have been 
more useful. But what hurt him most, when he suffered from his 
own shortcomings so keenly, was to lose patients (and he lost many) 
who had no right to die. It was dreadful to see them give up without 
a struggle, killed by fear of the unknown, by lack of faith in them- 
selves, by spiritual panic deriving from the war. Some of them were 
men whom for years he had respected. He watched them go with 
tears of anger in his eyes. They were cowards; they did not deserve 
to live; yet he blamed himself because they died. 

When it was all over he was left in a state of mental depression 
induced by fatigue. He had not only temporarily lost confidence in 
himself, he was harassed by secret doubts, doubts which he thought 
too terrible to divulge, about the humanity he had always been so 
proud to serve. He knew what was wrong. He needed time to forget, 
to renew his hold on life, but at this moment Lily Mashek fell mor- 
tally ill. 

He had been her doctor for years, and the spectacle of her life had 
always annoyed him, but now it took on an exaggerated significance 
in his mind. She symbolized all the weakness, the fatuity, the shame, 
of the world he had just discovered. To go to that dismal house, to 
look at her silly smile, grew more and more unbearable, and, several 
days before, it seemed he had reached the limit of his patience. 

And then last night the nurse had called him up. Her name was 
Mrs. Thorpe, and she had come from Omaha to help with the in- 
fluenza cases. He disliked her brisk, efficient ways and the profes- 
sional manner of her speech. "I think she's going, Moon. Will you 
come right over?" 

He was in bed, with the extension phone pulled to his side. The 
dry sharp voice seemed slightly less metallic than the vibration of the 
receiver. "No, I will not come over," he answered at once, with irra- 
tional rage. "I'm in bed. Do you think I'm going to get up and dress 
just to go over there? There's nothing more I can do." 

Mrs. Thorpe's voice buzzed on. It was the reproving voice of hu- 
manity. He listened a second to the rasping in his ear, and then 
without a word slammed the receiver. He did not intend to get out 
of bed. 

But he did get up. He was lying with his hands over his stomach 
when his wife came in from her room. "What is it, Doctor? Is 



106 Ivan Beede 

anything the matter?" "No," he said, sick with discouragement, 
"nothing's the matter." He climbed out of bed, put on his clothes over 
his nightshirt, and concealing this makeshift under his coat of fur, 
went down to the speakeasy. After filling himself full of port, he was 
able to come home and sleep. 

But this morning he felt conscience-stricken and made a call at the 
Masheks'. He found the nurse coldly superior, and Lily not dead, after 
all. There was really nothing to do — there had been nothing last 
night — but he told Mrs. Thorpe to keep in touch with him through 
the day. And now when the telephone rang he would go over there 
again, to no purpose. 

He stirred helplessly, and suddenly the book slid from his lap to the 
floor, pulling his hand with it. He sat there for a moment as he was, 
with one arm hanging loose, his mind, like his body, seeming scat- 
tered and formless. 

With an effort he pulled himself together, picked the book up from 
the floor, and walked to the window. His head whirled with vertigo; 
his ears rang; stars streaked across his eyelids. The dizziness passed, 
and then he looked through the snow at the lonely street lined with 
square wooden houses. The snow was dropping monotonously, 
straight from the sky, melting as fast as it fell. While he watched, the 
flakes thickened, the grey deepened, and fringes of white formed on 
the bare spots of the lawn. 

The telephone rang. It was as he expected. Lily was worse again. 

He donned his overcoat and cap, discovered that he was still wear- 
ing slippers, changed to his shoes, and closed the door of the house. 

The snow fell on him in a steady, unending rhythm; on his cap, 
his shoulders, his nose. He could see only two hundred feet ahead; 
there were no lights in the houses; the town seemed deserted, tenant- 
less. He walked along a lane of bare trees, through the snow, toward 
the twilight, alone. He had never felt so alone, and because of his 
depression his thoughts took on the complexion of the day. He saw 
the whole world living in these frail, sad houses, in the midst of deso- 
lation; victims of the weather, of vague fears, and senseless delusions. 
It weighed heavily on his spirit. If mankind did not have dignity, 
how could he hold up his own head ? Besides, the humanity to which 
he ministered with his beautiful hands had to have dignity. 

And Lily Mashek! It was as if she had been unconscious all her 
life, and she really had that air about her. She was always running 



The Country Doctor 107 

from one delusion to another, never touching reality. When Joe took 
to drink and began to beat her, she turned prohibitionist and tried to 
save his soul. All these years she had borne up with him, while her 
expression grew more angelic. And the reason was not because she 
loved Joe, but because people praised her fortitude and called her a 
saint. 

And now . . . now she was dying with a happy smile on her face 
because Joe had promised never to drink again. Joe reform! In a 
month he would be drunk; in six months he would be beating up 
some other woman. It was maddening. 

The Mashek house was on the east edge of town, near the ice pond. 
Years ago it had been painted pink, but now it loomed through the 
snow a kind of livid grey, sitting abjectly on a little rise of ground, 
a tall narrow house on a high foundation, looking both obscene and 
startled in the abandoned yard. He went up the path — there was no 
walk — and stamped the wet snow from his shoes on the porch. 

A strange young man answered the door. At first he could not make 
out who it was. Then he recognized the Mashek boy, who must have 
arrived since morning. While the son pumped his hand, Dr. Moon 
remembered him unpleasantly. As a boy he had fought with Joe on 
the streets, and later had run away. 

Going to the stairs, he discovered Joe sitting by the table, with his 
head in his arms. The old man straightened up as he passed. 

"It's no good, Doc. She's going to die." 

"We'll see, Joe." 

"Come on, Joe," he heard the son say from the dimness. "Don't 
bother Doc. You know what's going to happen as well as he does." 

Dr. Moon went up the stairs to the sickroom. As soon as he opened 
the door Mrs. Thorpe hurried on tiptoe toward him. She lifted the 
sick-chart from the bedstand and handed it to him. 

She jarred on his nerves. 

"Give her some air," he said. "You don't want to choke her, do you?" 

He put down the chart without looking at it and approached the 
iron bedstead. On the stand alongside was a coal-oil lamp with a 
bright pink shade, some ancient peace offering of Joe's. The patient 
lay beyond the circle of light, in the blue shadows. 

She was very thin and wasted, but her eyes were abnormally bright, 
and there was a strange, feverish precocity about the upturned nose 
and a misplaced look of eagerness on her face. Although she lay 



108 Ivan Beede 

weak and still, she seemed in a perpetual movement, and at sight of 
him her lips opened in an ecstatic smile. All he could see was that 
smile, which maddened and saddened him and made him want to 
hurt her even now. Yet when he spoke his voice was very gentle: 

"How are you, Lily?" 

He felt her pulse, placed his cool palm a moment on her forehead, 
then arranged her arms more comfortably, and turning to the nurse, 
signed with his hand that there was nothing more he could do. . . . He 
walked to the window and raised the sash, which she had lifted a 
little way, as high as it would go. A draught of damp air came in 
and brought to his ears the cottony sound of falling snow. The pond 
was all but invisible, limited at one end by the crazy-scattered limbs 
of scrubwillows, rising like giant witches' brooms, and at the other 
by the shadowy outlines of the ice-house. 

A thought was struggling in his mind, but he could not hold it. He 
could feel it, however, in successive waves: a tremendous affront to 
him, to everybody who held life in esteem. 

The sound of guns brought him back to himself, and then he heard 
the quick, scared call of ducks. Some one was hunting; he wondered 
who. It was almost completely dark; they would never find the birds, 
even if they got them. It worried him. And then he wished he were 
out there, too, in warm high boots, lying in the snow behind a blind 
of cornstalks, the firm feel of a gun in his hands. 

He pulled the window halfway down and started to leave. Mrs. 
Thorpe cut across to meet him, always on tiptoe, always with her 
swinging gait. There was something hard and metallic about her 
bronze hair and sharp features and starched uniform. She awaited 
him with her hand on the door. 

"How long will it be, Moon?" 

"Moon, Moon," he thought. What a brittle cat she was! 

"How do I know?" he demanded. And then curtly, "A couple of 
hours, maybe four." 

Mrs. Thorpe nodded, looked speculatively down at the floor and 
made a little clucking sound. 

He stared at her, then brushed his arm vaguely across his face. She 
looked so pleased. She was like impersonal nature, which seems to 
enjoy the manifestation of its phenomena. The expression on her 
face was just the same as that which he felt in the sun, the trees, the 
sky line, whenever he left a bed of death. 



The Country Doctor 109 

At the foot of the stairs he saw the son turn from the window, saw 
him because of the faint blue light which appeared as he moved away. 
At the same time he felt across the room the full impress of his cheer- 
ful bulk on the air. 

"Pardon me, Doc, I want to ask you something. Will it be all right 
to take Joe out for a walk ? Just for a little while ? He hasn't budged 
since I come. He's in an awful state." 

The son seemed determined to make the best of things. His manner 
and his personality irritated Dr. Moon. Besides, he could hear Joe 
milling in a chair behind him, and his stomach was revolted by the 
cold, stale smell of the house — a sickening eggshell odor. He longed 
to get out, but forced himself to be courteous. He went to great lengths. 

"It will be all right," he said, "if you don't stay too long and keep in 
touch with the house. Nothing will happen right away. It never 
does." He straightened, and put an arm in his overcoat. "You see, 
these shocks never come close together, even at the last. A crisis ar- 
rives because the heart can't pump blood through the arteries. The 
condition is accompanied by spasms of pain — your mother has been 
suffering the past week. We do what we can to ease her with nar- 
cotics . . . morphine. Then the condition clears . . . the heart triumphs, 
so to speak . . . and things go along for a while. Always for a while." 

"I see," the son said. "I see." 

Dr. Moon turned toward the table, touching his hat to the obscurity. 

"Good-bye, Joe!" 

"Good-bye, Doc. Oh, Doc, good-bye!" 

He closed the door. A slight draught blew curling flakes about his 
trousers' legs; his feet sounded hollow on the porch. He slushed 
through the snow, already melting on the sidewalk, clinging to his 
steps, making his feet seem heavy. The smell of the house, the sound 
of the son's voice, the picture of his patient in that upstairs room, were 
still with him; he could not shake them off. Lily was going to die; 
she was going to die as she had lived, deluded. And the snow was 
falling endlessly, foreshortening the darkness, covering the earth and 
the houses, imprisoning him with his thoughts. 

At the corner of the square he hesitated, standing with his hands 
in his pockets, his shoulders hunched under the smothering shower. 
It was completely night, a blackness thickened with grey. The other 
side of the feebly lighted square looked like the edge of civilization. 



110 Ivan Beede 

Beyond, it seemed there could be nothing human, only a limitless waste 
of falling snow. 

Such a wave of hopelessness came over him that he could not think 
of going home, and he turned toward the speakeasy. He wanted to 
get drunk, drunker than he had ever been in his life, drunker than 
he had ever dreamed of being, so drunk that he would be beyond all 
thought or feeling. 

The speakeasy, a former grocery store in which a full bar equipment 
had been installed, was packed with men. He edged up to a vacant 
place halfway down the long rail, and ordered a rye, tossing it off at a 
swallow. Then he ordered another one. 

He faced the entrance, lifting his glass, and as he did so the door 
opened and old Joe appeared, pushed in by his son. 

The glass was at his lips; he drank the whisky and turned to the 
bar again, watching the approach of father and son in the mirror. 
They were quite close before they saw him. The son greeted him 
heartily and passed on, but Joe started, then sank his head more deeply 
into his shoulders. 

"You here, too, Doc?" he asked, huskily. 

Dr. Moon did not speak; he only nodded, and faced the mirror again, 
fingering his glass. He watched in amazement while Joe sat down 
at a table and the son brought sandwiches, bologna, and beer. He felt 
bewildered, a little hurt, as if they had done him some wrong; and 
then suddenly, in keeping with his state of mind, with the weather, 
with everything that had gone before, an intuition came to him. 

He was positive the son knew nothing of Joe's promise to reform, 
because Joe lacked the strength to tell him. Now that they were here, 
it was easy to see what would happen. They would both get drunk 
and go stumbling home, where Lily was dying in the belief that Joe 
would never drink again. 

It all came to him in a flash, and he was sure, absolutely sure, that 
he had guessed the truth. It was just such a thing as would happen 
to the Masheks, as would happen to him, on such a night, feeling as 
he did. 

His conscience bothered him, urging him to interfere, but he pushed 
it down violently. It was none of his affair. 

Everything occurred as he had foreseen. Soon after they had fin- 
ished eating, the son came to the bar for two whiskies. A little later 
he returned for two more. 



The Country Doctor 111 

Dr. Moon gripped the rail tightly and ordered another one himself. 

There was no question now that he was right, that he had been 
right all along in his shame of humanity. Humanity! The blood 
rushed to his brain and he saw a whole world of foolish Lilies and 
weak Joes and blundering sons, a world which filled him with disgust. 

He wanted to laugh; he wanted to do more than laugh. And then 
he had an amusing idea, the idea of joining them, to see what would 
happen. 

Taking his glass in his hand, he walked as steadily as he could down 
the center of the room and stood at the side of their table. 

Old Joe started to get up deferentially, but Dr. Moon waved him 
back to his seat. 

"I thought I'd come," he said, with a bow, "and join the performance. 
Since we're all here together." 

"Good for you, Doc," the son said. "Sit down and have a drink 
and listen to what I been saying to Joe. I know you'll agree with me 
absolutely. We're both in the same boat, I told him. I know it hits 
him hardest, I don't deny that, but there's only one thing to do. No 
matter who we are we got to take these things as they come. Ain't I 
right, Doc?" 

Dr. Moon nodded his head gravely. "I'm coming to believe so," 
he said. "I do agree with you, absolutely. It's a mistake to take things 
too hard." 

Joe looked at him, unimpressed. Slowly he shook his head. "I been 
a bad man, Doc. I been a drunken, good-for-nothing, son of a bitch. 
But I'm goin' to reform. Doc don't believe me; he knows something, 
Doc does. But I'm goin' to. Wait and see. You think so, Doc? 
Listen, Doc. There's things I got to do. I got to have a Mass said, 
and a monument. . . ." 

"You can't do that," the son interrupted. "I wish you'd explain to 
him, Doc. Ma's a Baptist. You can't have no Mass said for a Baptist." 

"Although I'm not a Catholic," said Dr. Moon, "I'll tell you this: 
The Catholic Church is a great church." He put out his hands, ex- 
planatory. "Catholic — universal. Universal — Catholic. I'm not fa- 
miliar with the laws of the Church, but I'm sure that it's possible. You 
go ahead, Joe, and do what you want." He turned to the son. "Joe 
will do what he wants." 

"He sure will," the son said, "and I'll help him. Don't you ever 
doubt that. You ask him what the first thing I said to him was. 'I 



112 Ivan Beede 

was a mean kid,' I said, 'and I want to make up for it now. Anything 
in the world I can do, let me know. And,' I said, 'take it from me I 
didn't come broke.' Don't you worry about the monument, Joe." 

"As for the stone," began Dr. Moon, and paused — "I wonder ... I'd 
like. . . ." He hesitated again, while Joe looked at him with a wavering 
glance. "Lily. All these years. You know what I'm trying to say. . . . 
I never sent you a bill in my life, Joe. If you'd let me help a little 
now. . . ." 

Joe began suddenly to weep. His little red, watery eyes looked like 
broken blisters. "You too, Doc," he said. "You like Lily. She's so 
good, and me ... do you know what I am, Doc ? I'm . . ." 

Dr. Moon put his hand on Joe's shoulder, which collapsed under 
his touch. "Yes, I know, Joe, but don't worry now. It doesn't matter. 
Nothing matters. We're no good. Nobody's any good. Hell! Look, 
Joe" — he brought his hand back and put it at his side, as if expecting to 
find something wrong. "Some day, Joe, you and I . . ." 

"Sure, we all got it coming to us," the son said. 

"Let's have another drink." He got up and went to the bar. 

Dr. Moon watched his retreating back, and then said, confidentially: 
"These young fellows, Joe, they don't understand as we do. Every 
time the sun sets it's one less for us, and we wonder why it should be 
that way when we know what's at the end — nothing. I beg your 
pardon, Joe, I know you don't believe that, but . . . nothing." 

He waited for the son to return, and went on: "You're right; we 
all have it coming to us. That's just the point I want to make. We've 
got to remember that every day. Here we are, you and Joe and I. 
We've got to live. We can't die without living. We've got to be 
conscious, be human, live strenuously, live beautifully. Live. We've 
got to mean something. There is a saying" (he waited to fix their 
attention) : " 'Be noble, and the nobleness of other men . . . sleeping 
but not dead . . . will rise in majesty, to meet thine own.' " 

" 'Will rise in majesty to meet thine own,' " the son repeated. "That's 
beautiful, Doc. That's swell." 

"Lily," Joe called, "she's like what you say, ain't she, Doc?" 

At this Dr. Moon suddenly came to himself and did not say anymore. 
He remembered his idea and grew very reserved, nodding his head 
and drinking in silence while both Joe and the son talked at once. 

The talking stopped, and all three grew aware that the bartender 
was standing before them. 



The Country Doctor 113 

"Somebody telephoned from your house," he said to Joe. "They 
want you to come home." 

The two Masheks looked with scared glances at Dr. Moon, and then 
at one another. 

"Come," the doctor said. "We'd better hurry." 

He pulled Joe up from the chair, and the son helped with the over- 
coat. They left by the rear door, which opened on an alley, and fol- 
lowed it to the street. They walked one on each side of Joe, pulling 
him along, holding him up when he wanted to drop to his knees and 
pray. The weather had grown colder; ice had formed under the deep- 
ening layer of snow. It was difficult going. A wind blew small hard 
flakes across their faces. 

Dr. Moon felt intensely curious, but calm. Several times his con- 
science intruded, but he ignored it. He was only a spectator. He only 
wanted to see what would happen. 

The son leaned over Joe's back and whispered, "Do you think we'll 
be too late, Doc?" 

"No, I don't think so," Dr. Moon answered. "Not if we hurry." 

He was the first to enter the house. A lamp had been placed below, 
by the light of which he saw the nurse looking down from the top of 
the stairs. He took off his wraps and mounted, followed by Joe and 
the son. His step was steady; he felt perfectly sober. He walked across 
the sickroom to the little corner washstand and scrubbed his hands and 
dried them skilfully on a towel. It was all mechanical, almost uncon- 
scious. Then he turned to his patient. 

Her eyes stared at the ceiling; her lips moved; her hands crawled back 
and forth over the covers. 

"What is it, Lily?" he asked, and motioned to the nurse to find out 
what she was saying. 

"She wants you to come close," Mrs. Thorpe told Joe and the son. 

They fell awkwardly over the bed and she stared at them, and then 
smiled in exaltation. Dr. Moon saw the smile, and the troubled but 
unbroken rhythm of her lips as she prayed. Then he turned away. 

He had known at once that she could not see them, that she could 
only realize their presence. She was dying deluded, after all. 

He walked to the window and watched the white flakes whirl in 
from the blackness and click against the pane. Behind him he heard 
Lily's dry, persistent whispering, and an occasional moan from Toe. 

So now he knew for sure there was no sense in anything. 



114 John P. Bishop 

He turned around. "I'm going, Joe. I'm going. Good-bye." 

He walked quickly from the room, signaling for the nurse to follow 
him, closing the door behind them. For a second he stared at her, 
then brushed his hand across his face. Already he felt tired again. 

"Do you want to do something for me? Two things. Go down- 
stairs and cook them something hot. Some coffee. And the second 
thing, stay out of there." 

She stood still, making no answer, watching him in amazement. 
At the top of the stairs he turned and looked over his shoulder. "What- 
ever you do," he added, "don't you touch her." 

He descended with eyes looking straight ahead, put on his coat, his 
cap, his gloves, marched out of the house, across the yard, down the 
street, through the snow. It was getting bitter; he turned up the collar 
of his coat and sank his hands deep in the pockets. He tried not to 
think; above everything else, he tried not to think of what he had done. 

Tomorrow, he told himself, would be another day. He would be 
all right tomorrow. 



O PIONEERS! 

John Peale Bishop 

The white sagebrush desert. Noon. 
All day heat. But the nights cool. And 
Again yellowing dawn. Aspens on 
Mountains and yellow sagebrush on sand. 

Blind light bewilders. Blown or trampled out, 
You cannot follow in the apparent wind 
Your father's footsteps. It is to this end 
They would have led you. Turn and turn about 

The way is lost to fortune. Forward, back, 
Delirium will never find a stream 
Running gold sand. Rather earth will crack 
Dry on skeletons, skulls in some daft scheme, 

Sockets of eyes that perished crazily, 
Ignorant of the sun, the sagebrush, mad 
Even to the dew. A continent they had 
To ravage and raving romped from sea to sea. 




Buffalo in the Judith Basin: 1883 



Pat T. Tucker 



IN mid-winter of 1883 myself and several cowboys, including 
Charles M. Russell, famous as the "Cowboy Artist," camped on 
the Judith River. Those of you who have visited Montana will 
recall the Judith River valley, located in a huge basin about eighty-five 
miles across and about the same in length, the Missouri River skirting 
the northern boundary, the Moccasin and the Snowy mountains on 
the east, the Belt mountains on the south, and the Highwoods on the 
west. The buffalo that roamed those hills came in from their different 
summer ranges and wintered on the long bunch grass that grew in 
the Judith Basin. There was always plenty of open water and good 
shelter in these foothills. 

Our daily work was to pair off and trail through the foothills and 
bad lands of the Missouri River, to look after the range cattle, as the 
Indians and rustlers were at work on this range. Whenever a sus- 
picious-looking trail or sign showed that an Indian rustler had been 
killing or stealing cattle, our orders were to report to the camps im- 
mediately. Then a larger force of cowboys would hit the trail to run 
down the offender. 

One day in January Frank Davis, my old side-kick, and I were out 
trailing through the foothills. We struck Sage Creek, one of the tribu- 
taries of the Judith River. Trailing up this creek we came into deeper 
snow, it striking just above our horses' knees. While passing through 
some jack pines we chanced upon a track, which upon a second look 
proved to be a buffalo trail. Seeking to affirm this, and likewise to 
see if buffalo were still left in these parts, we took up the trail, riding 
very carefully through the deep snow. The depth of the snow muffled 
all sounds of our horses' feet on the dead branches underneath. Our 
fear of being discovered, however, was very great, as the snow still lay 

115 



116 Pat T. Tucker 

on the branches of the pines where a slight jar brought down a shower 
of snow. To overcome this we dismounted and proceeded on foot. 
As we had the wind in our favor no danger came from this source. 
We finally came within sight of the buffalo. They were on the 
edge of the tall timber, lying down. As we looked at them we thought 
of the possibilities of fresh buffalo meat for camp as well as ready cash 
for hides. We feared we could not handle the whole herd of fourteen, 
as our only arms were six-guns. 

Returning to the cow camp we changed horses and picked our 
mounts with care. These particular horses had been on buffalo hunts 
before and could be ridden up close without showing fear. After 
cleaning our Winchester carbines we rode out to the place where the 
buffs had been. 

They were gone, to our despair, but we quickly trailed them to a 
small blind canyon, which was the source of their water supply. This 
box canyon had an opening about fourteen feet wide. The whole 
distance around was a wall of granite rock, about three hundred feet 
high. At the other end, though, it was only about thirty feet high, 
and tapered to the top. Water had at some time formed this natural 
death-trap for the buffalo. 

As we rode up to the mouth of the canyon we could see the buffalo 
about three-quarters of a mile away and quite close to the rock wall 
at the other end. They had seen us and were trying to climb up the 
wall where it was lowest. 

Our plans were made at once. I was to leave my horse at the 
entrance of the canyon. Frank would stay there also and kill any 
buffalo that escaped me, as I was to sneak up within shooting distance 
and get what I could; so I left him there and proceeded on, bending 
low and keeping behind the rocks, willows, sagebrush and other 
objects that would hide me from their sight. 

Frank, meanwhile, kept in view and tried to attract their attention, 
which I believe he did, as the buffalo appeared unaware of my presence 
behind the large granite rocks. My Winchester rifle was of the very 
latest model and held eight cartridges in the magazine and one in the 
barrel. Smokeless powder was still to be discovered, and whenever a 
shot was fired a small cloud of blue smoke appeared. At the first crack 
of the rifle I dropped the leader of the herd, a magnificent creature that 
had done well to preserve this last remnant of a once countless herd. 



Buffalo in the Judith Basin 117 

This only increased their efforts to climb up the wall, or to mill 
around. As they continued to do this, I was successful in dropping 
six more of their number. They then split into two bunches and 
bolted for the mouth of the canyon. One bunch of three went off 
in a direction away from the rock behind which I was hiding. The 
other bunch of five came almost directly toward me. So I dropped 
two before they ran back to their former place. The three that had 
bolted for the entrance were killed by Frank before they could get 
out into the more open country. The others tried again to climb up 
the almost perpendicular side of the canyon, only to fall back when 
they lost their foothold. In a very short time I had killed the last one 
as it made a final attempt to get away from my deadly fire. 

After the smoke had cleared and the last buffalo had given a few 
dying gasps, I made my way from behind the rocks and went up to 
the dead buffalo. As I was looking them over, Frank rode up, leading 
my horse. We selected the choicest of the meat, which was a three- 
year-old heifer, cut off the two hindquarters, tied them on our saddles 
and rode for camp at high speed, reaching it just before supper. 

Mike Ryan, the cook, was delighted on seeing the fresh buffalo meat. 
It meant a change for the rest of the boys, as well as ourselves, and it 
pleased them very much. The straight beef three times a day was 
not favored, and a change was always desired. Getting the meat into 
the shack and cutting it up into steaks was left to Frank and me. 

Soon the hungry cowboys were enjoying a real feed on the choicest 
meat of the land. Mike Ryan, as a cook, was unequaled. Formerly 
he had cooked on Missouri River steamers, but cowmen traveling up 
and down the river to St. Louis, induced him to come and cook for 
their cowboys. It took a good cook to keep a bunch of cowboys sat- 
isfied during the long winter months. 

After this sumptuous feed Frank and I saddled up fresh horses and 
rode down three-and-a-half miles to the stage line station. The sta- 
tion was run by E. J. Morrison, a typical New Englander. He owned 
the store and furnished supplies to cattlemen and prospectors, freight- 
ers, etc., and through him we found a place to sell our buff meat. He 
agreed to purchase twelve of the buffalo at four cents per pound and 
get them from where we had killed them. This was not much for 
him to do, as he had ox teams and sleds. He had the buffalo dragged 
over the snow to where the sleds were left and loaded them on. 




A Rural Community 



Ruth Suckow 



THE station agent at Walnut, and Mrs. Jake Dietz who was ex- 
pecting her brother's wife from Pomeroy, could not place the 
man who got off the "Clipper" at 10:10. He did not look just like a 
traveling man. He was stocky, moved very briskly, had a slight mus- 
tache, wore a grey suit and a traveling cap, and carried a bag pasted 
over with labels which Mrs. Dietz could not make out. She did not 
hear him ask the station agent where Luke Hockaday lived, or it would 
have come to her who he must be— that Ralph Chapin whom Luke 
Hockaday had "raised" and who was now a writer of some kind. But 
she was busy greeting her brother's wife and saying "Well, you got 
here." 

Ralph Chapin looked alertly about him, at the yellow-and-brown 
depot with the row of willow trees and the pastures beyond, at the one 
small business street and the dingy brick Opera House and Masonic 
Hall. He thought, "That was here— that wasn't." The sharp white 
steeple of the little old Congregational church where he had suffered 
every Sunday through one of Mr. Soper's half-hour prayers, no longer 
rose from the maple trees beyond the Opera House. It had burned, 
he remembered, and now there was a modern building of pressed brick 
with a square English tower. He noticed that the little street "across 
the tracks," where the old hotel and livery barn stood, was falling into 
decay. One old man sat out in a Windsor chair in front of the empty 
livery stable. Two or three automobiles passed. They were putting 
up two new "pebble dash" bungalows on what used to be a vacant lot 
filled with red clover. Changes — even here! You couldn't escape them. 
The station agent had told him that Luke Hockaday's was just at 
the edge of town. "Well, you know where the old Wood place is? 
Well, d'you know where Art Penhollow's pasture is— where the dump 

118 



A Rural Community 119 

is? Well, d'you know where the cemetery is? Well, right across from 
that where the road turns." He thought that he could find it This 
was the first time that he had been in Walnut since Luke Hockaday 
had moved into town; it must be fifteen years or more. 

He went along a street that had a sidewalk only part of the way. 
It was "across the tracks" in the old part of town. The first thing 
that he had noticed when the train pulled out was the stillness every- 
where — only twitterings of birds and an occasional trill of song from 
a fence or tree. His mind, still filled with the rumblings and shriekings 
of cities, could hardly take it in. Was everyone asleep? As he looked 
down the street, it pleased him to fancy that the whole town had 
fallen asleep, like the Sleeping Beauty's castle, and was waiting for 
him to come back to waken it. Because this street had scarcely changed 
at all. It was almost the same! 

He had been prepared for change. Flying about all over the civilized 
world as he did, change was the only thing he saw. His mind was full 
of a world rocking and falling and transforming itself into something 
undreamed of before — of new inventions, changing empires, a tottering 
social order, revolution. He had expected hardly to recognize the 
little old town. When he had come through Edinburgh, the county 
seat, where he and the Hockaday boys used to drive with their girls 
on County Fair day and the Fourth of July, he had seen it transformed 
from a country town into a miniature modern city. His eye had no- 
ticed at once the fine brick bank, the asphalt, the new cement bridge 
over the river. What he had not been prepared for was to find any- 
thing the same. He had not permitted himself to expect it. But of 
course Walnut was slow. It was a country community, made up 
almost wholly of retired farmers, and they either of English birth or 
English descent. It had always had something quaint and rustic about 
it. Besides, all hill and timber countries were behind the times; and 
Walnut was just at the edge of that patch of rocky wooded country in 
the northeastern corner of Iowa. 

He looked from side to side — eager to recognize old landmarks, 
half-amused when he discovered them, yet feeling all the time a tinge 
of sadness that was like the haunting of melancholy in this exquisite 
autumn day. This was the very street along which they used to drive 
when they came into town with a load or on Saturday nights. A wagon 
came along now — rattling slowly, an old man with a thick white beard 
hunched over on the seat, a bushel basket of apples and some gunny 



120 Ruth Suckow 

sacks full of nuts jolting about in the back. That — everything he saw 
— teased him with elusive memories. This old house had always stood 
here — a one-story house of dingy brick, plain, with square small-paned 
windows, an old-timer. That big oak tree at the corner! Here were 
vague reminders of the old days — plain white houses with almost a 
New England air, fallen leaves half-raked upon the lawns, some late 
petunias bordering white house walls, a rockery, a bed of pansies and 
withered "sweet alyssum" edged with white clam shells from the 
Mississippi. Rope swings hanging from the boughs of elm trees, a 
boy with bare feet who stared after him, pumps with tin cups dangling, 
even one of those queer old hammocks made of slats ! It was like going 
back into his past, in a kind of dream. There were memories that he 
could almost touch — but not quite. . . . 

He looked beyond the houses, at the line of low hills on the south. 
He stood still — almost caught his breath at the sudden stab of emotion. 
With a strange impulse he took off his cap, held it crushed in his hand. 
There they were still — the old eternal hills ! How well he knew them, 
better than anything in the world. The lay of the land — something in 
that to stir the deepest feeling in a man. Low rolling hills, fold after 
fold, smooth brown and autumnal, some plowed to soft earth-color, 
some set with cornstalks of pale tarnished gold. Along the farther 
ones, the woods lay like a colored cloud, brown, russet, red, and purple- 
tinged. As he walked on, the houses grew fewer; everything dwindled 
into pasture land. The feeling of autumn grew more poignant. There 
was a scent of dust in the stubble. The trees grew in scattered russet 
groups. One slender young cottonwood, yellow as a goldfinch and 
as lyric in its quality, stood in a meadow, alone. Not even spring beauty 
was so aching and so transient — like music fading away. Yet under 
everything something abiding and eternal. 

He came to the very edge of town, almost to the woods through 
which Honey Creek ran. A house stood at the turn of the road. Of 
all things he had seen, it was the most autumnal. It stood plain and 
white against the depths of blue sky. Its trees were turning to pale 
yellow, its yard scattered with dry leaves. On the back porch yellow 
seed corn hung by the bleached husks to dry. Hickory nuts and wal- 
nuts were spread out on a piece of rag carpet. On the fence posts, 
orange pumpkins were set in blue granite kettles to ripen. The corn 
in the small field was in the shock. The smell of apples came from 
somewhere. 



A Rural Community 121 

"This must be where they live!" He was sure of it, would have 
known it if he had not seen the dump across the road in the hollow, 
if he had not caught sight of the black wrought-iron fence of the ceme- 
tery and the white tombstones among the somber evergreens. 

He went up to it, past the shed and a chicken house, to the side gate. 
He walked quickly, with a smile of anticipation in his eyes and ready 
to come out upon his lips. An old man was just coming out of the 
barn along the two planks to the back door. He was big but crippled 
with rheumatism. He wore a blue shirt, a vest with a brown sateen 
back, and grey woolen socks. He had a handsome old face that must 
have been romantic in its youth, with a wave of snow-white hair, a 
high color, a big white mustache and small brown eyes. He regarded 
the stranger with the wariness of a countryman. It was Luke Hock- 
aday. 

"Well, Father — good day to you!" Ralph Chapin called. His teeth 
glittered under his small light mustache. He held out his hand. 

The old man took it doubtfully. 

"Don't you know me? Don't you know Ralph?" 

Luke Hockaday leaned forward and stared at him. "Well, I believe 
it is! It's Ralph, for a fact. Ma, come here!" 

An old woman came to the door whom, in spite of all the years' 
changes, Ralph Chapin knew for the woman he had called Mother. 
"Who's this, Ma?" the old man said. She looked at one and then 
the other, as if she feared some kind of trap. Recognition began to 
dawn slowly in her face as the man kept on smiling at her. "It's 
Ralph! Sure it is!" They all laughed exultantly. She held out her 
arms. He came into them and stood there a long moment patting her 
stooped back and trying to swallow down any tears before they should 
come up and dim his eyes. 

He had never dreamed that he would be so moved — or that they 
still cared so much after all these years. He knew that this would be 
one of those moments that would always stay with him — with these 
two old people here, the white house and the blue sky, the light autumn 
rustling of the trees, the scent of dust and apples. 

They went into the house, all talking. Luke carried Ralph's bag 
into the bedroom and the old lady took his cap from him and laid it 
carefully upon the white bedspread. All the time, Ralph was telling 
them in his rapid, easy, practiced way, in his slightly harsh but attrac- 
tive voice the circumstances of his coming, and they were repeating 



j 22 Ruth Suckow 

and explaining what he said to each other. "Why, yes, didn't ye hear 
what he just got done saying, Ma ?" "That's just what he's been trying 
to tell you, Pa, if you'd ever listen." But as he kept glancing about 
with his swift trained observation, he was feeling a sense of disap- 
pointment. 

It was strange, wrong somehow, to have them here. After all, noth- 
ing remained the same in this world, in spite of the deep familiarity 
of those hills. They ought to have been in the parlor of the old farm- 
house that he remembered so well. It was one of those rock houses 
that are still found here and there near the Mississippi. It had deep 
windows, a wainscoting painted light brown, and beside the door a 
cupboard like the wainscoting. Whenever he thought of it, he could 
see Mother Hockaday opening that cupboard where she kept her 
glasses, toothpicks, her few letters, and a striped paper bag of cinnamon 
sticks in a tall glass. And he could fancy himself— he must have done 
it some time— standing in the yard where some yellow snapdragons 
sent from England had run wild, in the sunshine, looking at the deep 
woods across the road. 

He sat back smiling at the two old people while they went over and 
over the circumstances of the meeting. "Why, I didn't know no more 
who 'twas when I see him opening that gate," Father Hockaday said. 
"Says he— 'Good day to ye, Father.' Well, I knew 'twasn't any of the 
boys, but I couldn't figure out who't could be, then. Then says he— 
'Don't ye know Ralph?' Ralph— well, I see that's who 'twas." "I 
knew him right off. Sure I did," the old lady declared. "No, Ma. 
You didn't know him no more'n I did." "Sure I did." Ralph laughed 
delightedly. Suddenly he recognized their old familiar ways of speech 
and he was at home again. Mother Hockaday's reassuring "Sure," and 
old Luke so slow, so deliberate, with a flavor of rural England in his 
tone. It was the way that he remembered old Grandma and Grandpa 
Hockaday talking, except that they had been completely English. In 
its different way it struck a note of memory as deep as that which the 
sight of the hills had touched— but homely, intimate, that brought a 
smile to his lips. Again it moved him, and astonished him. 

"Why, do I look so much the same, Mother?" he asked rallyingly. 
He did not think that he did. 

"Sure you do," she replied. "Oh, you dress different and talk differ- 
ent and got that little mustache, but then your voice is just the same, 
and the way you look out of your eyes— I'd know ye anywhere. That 



A Rural Community 123 

quick way, taking a body right up on everything. The rest of the boys 
was always more slow, like Pa and me. Sure." 

He laughed, but he was not exactly pleased. He thought himself 
entirely transformed from that little raw country boy. He had studied, 
worked, traveled. He had thought there was not a trace of his old 
self left. He had been feeling all the time how remote he was from 
them, what a long way he had come. He had been an orphan whom 
Luke and Sarah Hockaday had "taken to raise." They were the only 
parents he had ever known. They had been kind to him, but they 
had boys and girls of their own and he had always remembered that 
after all he was not one of theirs. That was partly what had sent him 
out into the world while the rest had stayed close to the old home, that 
and his eager restless temperament. He had lived with them on the 
farm until he was sixteen, when he had gone to work his way through 
a little Methodist academy a few stations away at Wesley, and then 
through the State University. Then he had gone into newspaper work 
in Chicago, and just once, at the time of Jack Hockaday's wedding, he 
had come back to the farm. He always wrote to the two old people 
on Christmas Day and sent them a check. Now he was a writer, doing 
special articles for the big dailies and the magazines. He had been to 
half the cities of the globe, was in touch with all that was going on in 
the world, with every "movement." He was just back from a flying 
trip to the capitals of the new Middle-European states where he had 
interviewed the leaders of numberless political factions. Before that 
he had investigated the steel question, and before that had been a 
special correspondent at the war and the Peace Conference. He was 
going on now to do an article for Hunter's on "Our New South." His 
life was a series of flashing journeys, a kind of animated weekly. He 
thought of himself as a man without a home, or rather as a man 
capable of making a home in any cafe where he might chance to find 
a cozy seat. But somehow, after being so long in far-off countries, 
through such dangers, and after an illness that he had had in Prague, 
something had urged him to see this little town again and the two old 
people whom he had always called Mother and Father. A sudden 
realization had come that they would not be here forever. He had 
come on from Chicago before he went South. It was not far. He 
might have come long ago. 

But now as he said, "Now, Mother, sit back and let me take a look 
at you," he could see that she was not so different, after all. At once 



124 Ruth Suckow 

she began to look familiar to him. She had not changed so much as 
simply aged. That small head of hers, with something peculiarly sweet 
even in the cut of the features and structure of the bones, with the eyes 
set in deep hollows, and the hair of yellowed silver parted in the middle 
and rippling across the low square forehead. Only, the face was 
wrinkled, and the loss of teeth had spoiled the sweet curves of the 
thin lips, had brought up the little chin and sunk in the mouth. But 
most certainly, still Mother Hockaday, and the Sarah Wood whose 
picture, with curls and a feather, he and May used to admire so in 
the old album. 

She looked at him timidly. "I'm an old woman, Ralph." She had 
always been proud of her pretty face. 

"Pshaw, Mother, not so old. Still that same pretty curly hair." 

"Oh, but just see how white it is, Ralph. Not so white as Pa's is, 
though, even now." 

"No, but I got teeth. Ma's lost hers." 

"Yes, and losing teeth ages a body awful. Oh, we're both getting 
old, Pa and me. But then it's natural for folks to get old. They all 
have to. Sure they do." 

"We all follow the same path. The path of life," the old man said 
impressively. 

Ralph stirred slightly. His brows arched a little. He wondered if 
Luke was still such a devout old codger, and smiled to himself. 

But the conversation did not become emotional, after all, as he had 
half comically feared, remembering Luke's way. Luke Hockaday was 
a combination of close canny farmer, generous neighbor, and devout 
churchman, absorbed in his family relations, of an almost profound 
simplicity. He loved to talk over the ways of God and the lives of his 
children. His small brown eyes would moisten. But now the old 
lady gave him no chance. She made little signs to him, to which he 
answered— "What ye want, anyway, Ma?"— and finally she contrived 
to let him know that he was to kill a chicken and to go to town for 
her. He put on his wide-brimmed black felt hat, and Ralph, smiling 
to himself, watched him go hobbling off obediently, staring at the 
piece of yellow paper on which was written all the things which he 
was to buy in town and half of which he would come back without, 
even so. They were going to kill the fatted calf. 
"Well now, Ralph, I'll leave ye to yourself a bit," Mother Hockaday 



A Rural Community 125 

said a little formally. "But just make yourself at home. You are at 
home. Sure you are!" 

She was going out to the kitchen. "But can't I come out with you, 
Mother?" he asked lightly. "Tie an apron on me and set me to work. 
It isn't every day you have a big boy to run errands for you." 

She looked horrified. He remembered now that no male Hockaday 
had ever invaded the kitchen except to fill the wood box and empty 
the slops. That was the English of it. "Oh, no, my dear. I wouldn't 
have you coming out there to work. I'm used to gettin' the meals, you 
know. Sit down and read, or walk around the place. You know what 
ye likes to do best. I'll just get us a little something to eat. 'Twon't 
be much, nor in any style like ye gets it in the cities — " 

"No, I'm sure it won't be as I get it in the cities," he interrupted. 
"Not if Father carries out his designs on that chicken." 

"We ain't got many good fries now," she said apologetically. "Pa, 
he thought the chickens was too much for me. Addie — that's Jack's 
wife— has got a hundred and fifty young fries, think of that, Ralph! 
My, it's nice when they all comes out clucking around you when ye 
goes out with the feed ! I likes chickens. I misses what I had on the 
farm. . . . Make yourself at home, now, Ralph. If there's anything 
ye'd like and ye don't see, as\ me for it. Sure. That's what ye want 
to do." 
She went into the kitchen and he looked after her, smiling fondly. 
Left to himself, he wandered softly about a little at first, as one does 
in a strange house, touching this and that, glancing at the pictures and 
at the plants in the front window. Then he sat down by the table and 
picked up a paper that lay there. The Home Friend! He threw back 
his head and laughed noiselessly. To think they were still taking that 
— a ridiculous old sheet with farm items and blood-and-thunder serials 
that they had subscribed for, God knows why, as long as he could 
remember. He could see Mother Hockaday putting on her glasses, 
sitting down by the lamp on the dining-room table, while the June 
bugs beat against the ceiling, and saying, "Now, Jack (or May, or 
Dollie, or Eddie), can't ye go away awhile and quit pestering and let 
Ma read the Home Friend?" And they never could. He did not 
believe the poor woman had ever yet finished a serial! He looked 
down on the lower shelf for more plunder. The stereoscope! Verily, 
it was. With the very same views— Westminster Abbey, Mont Blanc, 
Unter den Linden,- the Paris Opera House, the Arnold Arboretum, 



126 Ruth Suckow 

Forest Hills, Massachusetts, with the azaleas tinted a hideous pink and 
the leaves a ghastly green. The old album, too, with the dark leather 
covers stamped with gold. But he was too restless to look at that now, 
at all the pictures of Hockadays and Woods and "brother's wife's 
folks" and "cousins in York state." He wandered about noiselessly on 
an exploring expedition into the past, everything bringing up memories, 
acutely familiar, homely, humorous, yet always with that little ache of 
sadness. The combination desk and bookcase (a new acquisition, evi- 
dently, when they had moved into town), but on every shelf a doily, 
and on the doilies Mother Hockaday's treasures— colored sand in a glass 
arranged in the form of a wreath of flowers from the "Picture Rocks" 
by the Mississippi, a blue plate and teapot from England, a pink shell, 
some grey Spanish moss die Ed Woods had sent up from Florida, an 
agate— Oh, all those things! And on top of the bookcase the stuffed 
owl that Uncle Pete Hockaday had shot in the timber. A photograph, 
of the year 1902, pasted on a grey card— a family reunion at the farm. 
He could make most of them out in the group standing awkwardly 
in front of the old rock house— Mother, Father, May and Dollie in 
those hideous collars and berthas and crimps, Jack, Ed, Will, and their 
wives, numerous children held firmly in front of parents, Uncle Ben 
Hockaday in his suspenders. And there were other pictures— Grandpa 
and Grandma Hockaday framed in black walnut, Dollie at four with 
bangs and fair hanging hair and striped stockings, Jack's and Addie's 
wedding picture, Ed's and Girlie's wedding picture (Ed had curled 
his mustache on the curling-iron!), Dollie's and Fred's wedding pic- 
ture, Dollie in her "graduation dress" holding a rolled diploma, the 
class of 1898, "Walnut H. S.," grandchildren, their graduating and 
wedding pictures— If time didn't fly! And yet what a tremendous 
sense of continuation— that first old couple, and a child, and then 
another couple and another child, and another couple and another 
child, and another couple— nothing new, after all, but endless, slightly 
varied, repetitions. The same baby features appeared over and over 
again. He was completely absorbed when Mother Hockaday called 
to him from the door, "Ralph, would ye like to wash your hands before 
we set down?" 

He jumped. 

"What ye found there ? Oh, photographs!" And as he stood smil- 
ing, blinking a little as if he had come out of a dream, she went on 
gravely to point out and explain each one — "That's Dollie's and Fred's 



A Rural Community 127 

girl Bernadine. I guess ye never seen her. That's Uncle Ben Hocka- 
day's son's wife's sister, she's married now. That's May's youngest 
boy" — until Father Hockaday called out, "Ma, are ye goin' to let all 
the vittles get cold ?" 

He followed her out to the dining room. As they sat down he noted 
the large window full of plants, and saw that although the table and 
chairs were not those they had used on the farm, he remembered many 
of the dishes and the starched white company tablecloth. He remem- 
bered that awkward moment when they first sat down and did not 
know whether to start eating or to bow their heads, until Father Hocka- 
day began in his slow devout voice — "Heavenly Father, we thank Thee 
for all these Thy manifold good gifts to us" and he ducked his head 
hastily and looked as if he had expected it; and the awkward moment 
again after the blessing was over, and they all sat there, just before 
someone started passing things. And he knew the food! The platter 
of fried chicken, the mashed potatoes with the butter making a little 
golden hollow, the awkward bowl of gravy, the big slices of good 
homemade Iowa bread, the cucumber pickles, sweet pickles, beet 
pickles, red jelly, honey, corn relish, in a succession of little glass dishes 
that kept him so busy passing he hardly knew when to eat. "Now, 
there ain't much, Ralph, but what there is you're dearly welcome to." 
"Help yourself, Ralph. Make out a meal." "We're plain, Ma and me. 
You know that. But I guess we can manage to get ye fed." "Take 
it all, Ralph; there's more in the kitchen." Of course the table should 
have been surrounded by children. Still, the feeling was the same. 
Cool autumn sunshine came in through the window across the red 
glass pickle dish, and there was a faint odor from the plants. 

"If I'd just known ye's coming, I'd sent out for some of the children 
to come in," Mother Hockaday said. "May, she's got some of Hank's 
folks there right now, but Dollie, she might have come in, and Jack, 
and Eddie. Why didn't we telephone 'em, Pa?" 

"Oh, but, Mother," Ralph said hastily, "I wouldn't have you go to 
so much work." 

"Oh, I'm used to cooking for a big raft of folks. Sure I am," she 
said easily. "I can still get up a meal for 'em if I am getting old." 

"Every Sunday we're together," Father Hockaday said. "Every 
Sunday I got my girls and boys about me as if we's still all living 
together on the farm. Children and grandchildren and great-grand- 
children all together." 



128 Ruth Suckow 

"Well, it's nice. It's a comfort for us. Sure it is. That's what I say. 
Help yourself to the pickles, Ralph. Maybe you'd like this kind 
better. . . . But what'd the children say if they knew Ralph was here, 
Pa?" she continued. "What'd Jack say, d'ye s'pose? Ralph, ye better 
call Jack up after dinner. See what he says!" 

"I'll do that," Ralph answered heartily. 

"What d'ye s'pose Jack'll say? What'd May say, Pa?" 

She was still talking of that when they had all finished eating and 
she had come into the parlor after washing the dishes. She had brushed 
her rippling hair, and put on a thin dress of figured lawn with a ruffle 
around the bottom of the skirt, and a black ribbon about her waist. 
She stood listening delightedly while Ralph rang four long and a short 
for Jack on the old-fashioned telephone. 

"Hello! Jack Hockaday speaking? — Know who this is, Jack ? You 
don't! — Well, do you remember a certain brother of yours — Yes, it is. 
It most assuredly is. Ralph — yes." ("Bet he's surprised, ain't he?" 
Mother Hockaday cried gleefully.) "Wish I could, old fellow, but 
I'm here on a flying trip, you might say. — You do that. I'd like to see 
the other boys, too." 

"Jack coming in?" Mother Hockaday asked delightedly. 

"Yes, coming in tonight after milking." 

"I knew he would. Sure, they all will. They'll all want to see 
Ralph." 

Ralph was touched at the delight with which Jack had greeted him. 
And Jack and his wife were coming in, and were going to stop for 
Fred and Dollie, and send word to Ed and Will and May. Suddenly 
he found himself anxious to see them all. Why, he would have thought 
that the younger ones, like Ed and Dollie, would have half forgotten 
him by this time! 

"You ought to make us a real visit, Ralph," Mother Hockaday said 
anxiously. "Jack'll want ye to go out there. See the old place. Jack's 
always thought so much of you. He still talks about what he and 
Ralph used to do." 

He would have liked to see the old farm. He had supposed that to 
spend a few hours here, see the two old people once more, would have 
been enough for him. But he answered with regret, "Mother, I surely 
wish that I could." He went on to explain to her troubled uncom- 
prehending eyes about an appointment in Louisville for Thursday, 
another in Birmingham. She did not see why he could not stay 



A Rural Community 129 

longer. He hardly saw why himself. "Well, I wish ye could stay," 
she repeated. "You know we're gettin' old, Pa and me." 

Father Hockaday settled himself in his chair and took off his shoes 
again, now that the superficial strangeness of Ralph's clothes and 
manner had worn off. "So ye're a great traveler, Ralph," he began. 
"Ye been across the water and to foreign lands." 

"Why, yes, Father!" Ralph gave him a flashing smile. "But what's 
that ? You came over from England yourself. You've been a traveler. 
Mother, too." 

"Yes," the old lady said vaguely. "Pa and Ma did. Me, too, only I 
was so little then. But I don't like to have ye so far away, Ralph. 
Now we're gettin' old, Pa and me, it's a comfort for us to have our 
children all living 'round us. Jack, he's on the old place, and Eddie 
where Uncle Abel Wood used to live. May, she's the farthest, out of 
Edinburgh. If you got to be in the city, why don't ye settle in Chicago, 
Ralph ? That wouldn't be so bad. Then we could see ye often." 

"Oh, I can't settle yet, Mother," he answered lightly. "Too many 
places to go. Too much to do." 

"Not ready to settle, Ralph? Well, when ye goin' to be? You're 
over forty, ain't ye ? Sure ye are." 

"Oh, forty's young nowadays, Mother." 

"Ye ought to settle, Ralph," Father Hockaday said. "It ain't right, 
the way you're living. It's often come to me, it ain't right. Here's all 
my boys, each one with his good wife and his home and his children 
growing up around him — only Ralph, now. And I often think, I wish 
ye could find a woman for ye, Ralph. Every man ought to have a 
helpmate. Look at Ma and me. What'd either of our lives been alone?" 

"It's so lonesome for you, my dear," the old lady said commiser- 
atingly. 

The light smile with which Ralph had been listening at first had 
gradually become set and painful on his lips. He felt the sudden 
shock of a different point of view. He had been easily sure of the 
superiority of his life, but how could he hope to explain it to them? 
The moving with world events, the meeting with the choice of the 
earth, the advantages of freedom, the sharp spur of competition, the 
eager gnawing need of work, the place that he had won for himself? 
It seemed to be melting away from him. He was all at once conscious 
of a void in the very center of his being. It unsettled him. It made 



130 Ruth Suckow 

him feel as if he were swimming in thin air. It was hard for him to 
answer, to turn the talk aside. 

Father Hockaday said slyly, "But it's too late for you to get your old 
girl, Ralph. Yes, while ye's away, another man stepped in. Oh, she's 
a lovely woman, Dora is. I couldn't have asked better than to have 
had ye marry Dora." 

"Yes, but he can't have Dora, now, Pa," Mother Hockaday put in. 
"And she ain't just the kind he'd want anymore. Ralph'd want a 
more stylish kind of woman, like him." Ralph laughed. "Yes, you 
find ye one, Ralph," she persisted. "Ain't you met some woman you'd 
like in some of those places where ye been ? Ye've been around enough." 

"Perhaps I haven't found any who'd like me." 

"Don't tell me that, my dear," she answered proudly. He patted 
her hand. 

"He'd never find a better woman than Dora Cross," old Luke re- 
peated. "A good mother, and a good church worker, and a good house- 
keeper. He ought never to have let her go." 

"Yes, but, Pa, Ralph didn't want to settle here. He wanted to see the 
world a little." 

"Well, now he's seen it, ain't he? Now it's time for him to settle 
and make a home for himself, like all men does." 

Ralph did not reply. After a silence — "Dora Cross!" he exclaimed, 
half humorously. "I haven't thought of her for years. Whom'd she 
marry, Father?" 

"Why, this Tom Stonecipher. Ain't ye ever heard?" 

"Never!" He laughed softly. 

"There's where ye lost a good woman, Ralph." 

"I wish ye could see Dora, Ralph — " 

"Oh, no, Mother! Spare me that." He held up his hand. There 
was where he would see changes, in his boyhood sweetheart. He much 
preferred to keep her as he saw her now, a round face and fair hair 
surrounded by a kind of mist. 

Old Luke was still harping on the same subject. "Melie Penhollow's 
still single, Ralph. Ye might get her." 

"Melie Penhollow! What'd Ralph want of her?" 

"Oh, now, Melie ain't such a bad woman. If she didn't have that 
kind o' squint-like — " 

"Of course she ain't a bad woman. Melie's a nice girl. But Ralph 
don't want no one like Melie." 



A Rural Community 131 

"Grace Smith — she's a nice woman, now. I'd like to see Grace get 
a husband." 

"You let Ralph pick out his own wife, Pa. He knows who he 
wants better 'n you do, I guess." 

"Well, why don't he do it, then?" the old man grumbled. "He's 
had time enough. I just thought I'd help him out a little." 

"Thanks, Father! Of course you did." Ralph laughed, but he felt 
uncomfortable. 

A wife, a home, and a child — these things continued under all 
the seeming revolution in the lives of men. Eagerness and striving 
after other things — and then a sense of emptiness, and back to the old 
things again. Even he himself. He might come back to them. 

Mother Hockaday brought out an immense scrapbook in which, 
among long obituaries and accounts of weddings from the Walnut 
Echo, she finally found an ancient picture of Ralph, in a high collar 
and bow tie, from a newspaper, and even some of his articles which 
other people had discovered for her in magazines. 

"Why, Mother, I didn't know you'd care for all these things!" he 
exclaimed. 

She put her hand on his knee and looked at him. "Why, Ralph, 
didn't I bring ye up ? Ain't you one of my boys ? Sure you are." 

He sat back smiling and scarcely trusting himself to speak. He felt, 
to his wonder, a kind of resurrection of his boyhood self. 

He was soon talking again, in his rapid and vivid way, trying to 
give them some faint ghost of a notion of all the things that he had 
seen and done. They listened with ingenuous delight. Several times 
Mother Hockaday laid her hand on his knee and stopped him while 
she turned to the old man to exclaim, "Don't that sound like Ralph, 
now, Pa?" 

"Does it?" Ralph asked, laughing a little. "Was I always such a 
talker, Mother?" 

"You was always a fine talker," she said fondly. "Better 'n any of 
the boys. He was, wasn't he, Pa?" 

"He talked a little too much, Ma, when you'd set him at the churn." 
They all laughed. "And he was awful hard to keep quiet in church. 
While the minister was praying, he'd twist, and he'd wiggle, and then 
he'd get all the rest of the boys to wigglin', and then he'd sneeze — " 

Ralph laughed hilariously, recognizing the picture. But the old 
ladf would not laugh at him. "Well, they was awful long, Pa; Mr. 



132 Ruth Suckow 

Soper's prayers always was. I don't really know that I blamed the boy. 
Mr. Soper was a good man and a lovely preacher, but his prayers was 
long, that I've always said." 

"Mother always sticks up for her boys." 

"Sure I do, Ralph; sure I do." 

But while he talked, although it soothed some dissatisfaction of his 
to see that they were struck with naive admiration at the ease with 
which he talked, and at the thought of his having seen so many places, 
he could see that they did not really take it in. To their minds, it was 
Will and Ed and Jack who had achieved success. They admired Ralph, 
and yet they could not understand — how he lived, why he had no 
family, just what he was doing anyhow. He tried to give them some 
idea of what was going on in the world. But although they would 
exclaim, "Yes, things are changing! Nothing ever stays the same in 
this world," they said it comfortably, like repeating some old axiom, 
not as if they really grasped it at all. Once the old man said, "Yes, 
they talk about changin' everything, changin' everything. All this 
new machinery and all. But far as I see, no one's yet found the way 
to make the corn grow any way but from first planting the seed, and 
then it gettin' watered by the rains and het by the sun, tosselin' out 
and bein' cut. And folks stays about the same." The old lady had 
always been the brighter of the two. Her eyes were a little troubled 
as she tried to comprehend it all. But what pleased both of them was 
when they could catch some phrase or gesture that reminded them of 
the boy Ralph. Then they would exclaim in delight, "Didn't that 
sound like Ralph ? Didn't it now?" And they would go on to relate, 
minutely, characteristics of his that he would have supposed no human 
being would have cared to remember — how he had always wanted to 
use that pink marbled soap to wash with, how he would never wear 
a certain kind of hat that all the other boys wore, how he would not 
take cream in his coffee. Human relationships were what they under- 
stood, the things to which they clung. 

Gradually, in spite of his amusement and pleasure at arousing their 
amazement, he grew quiet, and soon ceased talking altogether. These 
things of which he spoke seemed, even to him, far away. The autumn 
air, cool and sunny, came in through the open door. He could look 
out and see along the crest of the upland pasture, oaks with blood-red 
patches through which the sun shone. Sometimes a rooster crowed; 
sometimes a flock of birds whirred up from the tree outside. Years 



A Rural Community 133 

dropped away. He began to realize in his secret mind a kind of same- 
ness under everything. He imagined himself in the midst of whirling 
water suddenly touching bedrock and finding it just about what it had 
always been. 

They began to talk to him, to tell him all about Will and Jack and 
Eddie and May and Dollie; and about the boys and girls whom he had 
known in school — how this one had married such a one, and this one 
had died, and this one moved into town. He could see that all the 
while they were still puzzling themselves as to why he had never mar- 
ried, and feeling, in spite of their pride in his accomplishments, a kind 
of sorrow that they could not see him, like the other boys, settled. He 
began to feel even a kind of dissatisfaction with himself, to think with 
distaste of the journey he must take that night, vaguely to wish that 
in all the world, there was something to which he could feel himself 
as attached as they were to these hills. 

The old man wandered off after a time, lay down on the lounge in 
the dining room, and went to sleep. 

"Pa's gettin' to sleep so much," the old lady complained. "I'm real 
ashamed of him in church. Oh, we've got a lovely minister now, 
Ralph! I wish ye could hear him." And then she said, "I'm going 
over to the cemetery, my dear. Wouldn't ye like to come along? 
Grandpa and Grandma's there now, ye know, Pa's folks and mine. 
Yes, do. Put on your cap. We'll go over there together and let Pa 
have his nap." 

She put on her little black straw hat and he took his traveling cap 
in his hand. He loitered about the yard while she picked some of 
the late asters to take with her, and showed him just where she had 
had all her summer flowers, lamenting that he had come too late to 
see the four-o'clocks and moss roses and sweet peas. Then they went 
along the road together, Ralph checking his brisk walk to suit her 
slow step. 

He opened the small iron gate of the cemetery for her. The big 
gate for vehicles, with its imposing scroll top, was locked with a chain. 
He followed her into the quiet place. The grass was still a little 
green. The tall evergreens stood in a somber dusk, and the little 
breeze, that was so sunny and fresh outside, made a different sound 
in their big creaking boughs. Still, it was a pleasant place, with the 
low brown hills and the pastures beyond, the autumn woods, and the 
little town off at the west. Some of the trees were noisy with birds. 



134 Ruth Suckow 

As he followed Mother Hockaday past the Soldiers' Monument, he 
noted the familiar names on the stones — Wade, Wood, Penhollow, 
Davies, Stonecipher, Reed. Since he had been here, one generation 
had slowly and almost imperceptibly passed, had taken up its abode 
in this quiet place not very far from the old homes. That had its 
beauty. 

The Hockaday lot was in a corner of the cemetery. He pleased 
Mother Hockaday by admiring the plain stone of polished granite with 
a kind of scroll at the top, instead of the lofty monument of the Reeds. 
He stood watching her. These rites had long been strange to him. 
She plucked off some withered flowers on the mound with the small 
headstone "Mother," and he filled for her at the pump a glass that had 
tipped over and that had a faint greenish stain and odor of wilted 
flowers. She did not seem sad, only calm and cherishing, as when she 
went about her household tasks. He saw that the asters were not for 
Grandma and Grandpa but for a little grave that he had quite forgotten 
— of the little two-year-old Agnes who had died of diphtheria nearly 
forty years ago. The little old-fashioned white slab, on which the let- 
ters were faint and weatherworn, slanted back over the small sunken 
mound. 

"Some of those autumn leaves would look nice, wouldn't they, 
Ralph?" the old lady said. "You know you can paraffin them. If 
we had time we'd go into the woods and get some, wouldn't we? I 
always think the hard maples are so lovely." 

She was not through yet. She had kept some of the pink asters for 
another small grave. A white log roughly cut, on which a lamb was 
lying, guarded it. 

" 'Adelaide Mellon,' " he read softly. Why, / knew her, didn't I, 
Mother? I remember when she died." 

"Sure you did. Mrs. Mellon's been gone a good while, Ralph, but 
I promised her when she lay sick I'd keep little Adelaide's grave just 
like she'd always kept it herself. She was a lovely woman, Mrs. Mellon 
was. These plants look kind o' spindling." 

Ralph wandered off a little way. A faint smile was on his lips, less 
brilliant and more thoughtful than usually was there. He looked 
past the stones to the russet woods, letting the breeze stir his hair. 

Mother Hockaday came and laid her hand on his arm. "What ye 
thinkin' about, my dear?" 



A Rural Community 135 

He turned about. "That this wouldn't be such a bad place to sleep 
in, some day," he answered half whimsically. 

She replied quite seriously. "So ye can, my dear, but I hope it won't 
be for a long while yet. You're one of us; sure you are." 

He arched his brows. He did not know whether or not there was 
anything serious in what he had said. In his theory, the cast-ofT body 
mattered nothing. "Oh, I fly about so much, Mother, no telling where 
I'll end up. China or Van Dieman's Land—" 

She was perturbed. "Don't say that, Ralph. No, I don't like to think 
of you off by yourself somewhere." 

"Let me carry your basket, Mother," he urged with sudden vivacity. 

The old man was just coming out to the yard to look for them when 
they reached home. The day was going fast. The trees threw long 
shadows. They had supper, and after that the children drove in. 

They came in Fords instead of the old buggies, but the Fords were 
filled just as the buggies had been with the shy staring eyes of children. 
May had not been able to get in, but all the rest had come. They 
seemed to make a great noise when they all came tramping into the 
house. They greeted Ralph with bashful loudness. 

He was astounded at the rustic look of these foster brothers which 
seemed to him more rural, somehow than that of other Middle-western 
farmers. They were prosperous, he knew, and he had expected them 
to be what is called "up-and-coming," to have left the old people far 
behind. All of the boys except Will, who was the oldest, had thick 
untrimmed shocks of hair that curled about their ears and reddened 
necks, and Will had a patriarchal beard. Their calm eyes, slow speech, 
their clumsy shoes, and rosy cheeks— they were astonishingly like the 
English yokels whom he had seen about the doors of thatch-roofed 
cottages. So many of the old characteristics had survived. Only Dollie 
had the rippling hair and sweetly-cut features of her mother, and was, 
in spite of her country dress and her six children, a pretty woman. But 
children— what families they all had! Will with eleven and Jack with 
eight! It seemed to him that endless relays of them were being herded 
shyly up to "see Uncle Ralph." 

They were all a little bashful with Ralph, even Jack, his old chum; 
and he had a feeling of helpless dismay at the gulf which seemed to 
lie between him and them. He felt again a man of the world, not 
the old persistent self that he had been recapturing that afternoon with 
the old people. He was introduced solemnly to the wives and to 



136 Ruth Suckow 

Dollie's husband, all of whom remembered him so well that he had to 
pretend also to recall them. "Sure — Girlie Wade, don't you remember 
her?" They pumped his hand, Will owlishly, almost Biblically solemn, 
the others with abrupt awkward meaningless laughs. They settled 
down in the parlor and an agonized hush held them (broken by low 
commands and whispers to the children) until Mother Hockaday set 
them going with her repetitions of how glad she was that they could 
come in to see Ralph, and how sorry that May couldn't come. They 
began to talk shyly to him and he to answer with a somewhat exag- 
gerated vivacity to cover his dismay. 

They asked about what he had been doing "all this time," and 
where he had been, saying— "That so?" and "Listen to that," laughed 
loudly at whatever he told them that seemed odd or (to them) fanciful, 
and yet with a kind of blankness in their eyes that rather disconcerted 
him. He did not know that they were hoarding up all that he said to 
bring out, and to mull over, endlessly. But still it was an effort; they 
were uncomfortable, until they fell into the old observations and repe- 
titions and human discussions again. Ralph sat back listening. 

"You going to have woodchoppers again this year, Dollie ?" 

"Oh, I guess so. Fred, he wants to thin out them willows down near 
the creek." 

"Yeh, them willows don't do any good there." 

"Haul 'em into town, Fred. Willow makes good wood." 

"Naw, willow don't. Maple does, now. Oak's the best wood. They 
ain't cuttin' much oak now. Got it too thinned out. She don't want 
the willow cut, even" — with a gesture of his thumb toward Dollie. 

"No, I don't. I never want to see any of the old trees go down. I 
don't know, when they been there so long — " 

"She keeps in the house where she can't hear them fall." 

"Sure she does. I don't blame her. That's what I always done when 
Pa got to woodchopping. I likes the trees." 

"Well, frost's holding off a good while." 

"Yes, the hard maples ain't even red." 

"Yes, but we'll have it. We'll have frost within a week and a frost 
to kill. Whenever we have a spell of real warm weather like this 
'long about the first of October it's always followed by a hard frost. 
I ain't never known it to fail." 

"Well, now, about the year 1902, we had an October like this and 
frost never come until the nineteenth of November." 



A Rural Community 137 

"Well, we'll have frost. You see." 

"Ed Robi'son's broke his arm, d'you know that? Broke it crankin' 
his car. The handle flew back on him and hit him right here above 
the elbow." 

"Sure! I always knew he'd do that some time. He always took 
hold of it kind o' back-handed like. I told him so. I says, 'Ed, that'll 
fly back on you some day and break your arm for you.' No! He 
knew what he was doin'. Can't never tell a Robi'son nothing." 

Ralph sat back and listened, his eyes now bright, yet full of a 
dreamy interest. His dismay slowly wore off. The talk seemed to 
bring him certain country things— the bitter sappy smell of a new- 
felled tree, the scent of nuts in autumn woods, the tanging smell of 
cider in the October sun, the dry ghostly crackle of the pale-gold 
cornstalks left standing in the fields. He began to feel a certain some- 
thing about his foster brothers that satisfied him, that curiously pleased 
some primitive depth in him. He began to be glad of their slow 
voices, their odd turns of speech, their rustic air. These things sug- 
gested the deep stabilities of country life — the slow inevitable progres- 
sion of the seasons, the nearness to earth and sky and weather, the 
unchanging processes of birth and death, the going of the birds in the 
fall and their sure return in the spring, the coming, night after night, 
of the familiar stars to the wide country sky. 

Somehow it pleased him now to think of how deeply rooted they 
were. It gave him, confirmed wanderer as he was, "something to 
tie to." No wonder that they were so little changed. After all, where 
had they been? Back and forth over the same old roads, bringing 
their crops into Walnut. To Edinburgh to the County Fair or the 
Chautauqua on the night when Krill's Band played; and when they 
had real shopping to do, perhaps as far as Dubuque. They might have 
gone farther but they had little desire. Other places to them were a 
kind of dream. They laughed at them indulgently. Perhaps some 
day, when all the children were grown and they in turn had left the 
farm, they might "take a trip." But it would be without pleasure, 
largely under protest, and they would come home sooner than they 
had planned. "Pa, he got sick of it. Ma, she didn't want to stay no 
longer." People, even in Edinburgh, traveled widely now. But here 
they stayed close to their own soil. 

The first strangeness had quite worn off. Ralph caught looks, char- 
acteristics, of the boys and girls he had known. Tehey did the same 



138 Ruth Suckow 

with him. Jack, his old comrade, who had at first seemed the strangest, 
was now the most familiar. Under his red hardened skin his features 
had remained curiously unchanged. There was a kind of shy friendli- 
ness in Jack's eyes under that shock of hair — just as when they were 
children, not speaking to each other, perhaps, when there were other 
people present, but always conscious of the secret bond between them. 
It was there still, something kindred, under all the difference. Still 
that something that he liked about Jack, that made him feel a little 
closer to him than to all the rest. That was perhaps the one friendship, 
incongruous as it seemed, which would never break. He would always 
have the feeling that Jack was there. 

At half-past nine they began to gather the children together. The 
old people had already endured visible agonies of sleepiness. They all 
became solemn and formal again, as they shook hands with Ralph and 
urged him to "Come and see us next time. Come when you can stay 
a little longer." Jack stood beside him for a few minutes, awkwardly, 
before he cranked the Ford. "Well, Ralph, better come out to the old 
place again. Still a few crappies, I guess, in the creek." "Thanks. I'll 
do that, Jack." "Yes, sure. Well — " Jack could not think of anything 
else to say. One of the children called, "Ain't you going to crank her. 
Pa?" "Well— I'll say good-bye, Ralph," he said then. 

Ralph stood out on the lawn until even the sound of the cars was 
lost in the stillness of the country night. He looked up at a sky thick 
with stars. He heard the familiar sounds of the old people moving 
about in the house, going out to the kitchen, closing windows. Old 
Luke padded about in his stocking feet just as Grandpa Hockaday had 
always done. Finally Ralph went in. 

His train left at eleven-thirty. Somehow he managed to overcome 
Mother Hockaday's scruples against his being allowed to go to the 
station alone, at having no one to "see him off safely." He could see 
that the old man was in an agony to get to bed. For the last hour he 
had been squirming in his chair, easing first one leg and then the other. 
Mother Hockaday kept saying, "I can't think we're doing right, Ralph, 
to let ye go off by yourself"; but he managed to take leave of them 
at the house. 

Father Hockaday became impressively solemn. He held Ralph's 
hand in a hard and yet feeble grip. Ralph returned the pressure, stirred 
at the feel of the rough, aged skin. "Ralph, the Lord keep ye," the 
old man said. 



A Rural Community 139 

Ralph turned to Mother Hockaday. He took her silently in his arms. 
When he let her go, he could see tears in her eyes, but she followed 
him to the door smiling mistily. 

"Well, Ralph, I hope ye have a good safe journey. And get some 
sleep on the way." 

"I will. Don't worry. Good-bye, Father. Good-bye, Mother/' 

He hurried off. They still stood in the lighted doorway. At the 
gate he looked back and made a gay gesture of good-bye. 

Father Hockaday, who still had a great respect for trains, had in- 
sisted on getting him off in plenty of time. He walked very slowly. 
He did not look back at the old house, which showed a light now in 
the bedroom window, but he was conscious of it. Conscious of the 
old people whom he might never see again. Instead, he looked at the 
silent street, where never a light shone, where his heels rang out 
loudly. He looked at the thick strewing of stars on the night sky. 
The low line of hills was just visible, a patch of immovable darkness. 

Only the agent was at the station. Ralph got his ticket, then went 
outdoors again and sat down on an empty baggage truck. He could 
hear the click of the telegraph inside. It sounded sharp and lonely. 
The air was chill outside, but it pleased him. 

His lips were curved in a musing smile. Tomorrow this little place 
would seem a million miles away — almost out of existence. But he 
was aware that since he had stepped off the train in the morning, the 
current of his thoughts had been changed. He felt steadied, deeply 
satisfied. He looked toward the dark pastures beyond the row of dusky 
willow trees. They widened slowly into the open country which lay 
silent, significant, motionless, immense, under the stars, with its sense 
of something abiding. To come back to it was to touch the core of 
things. 

The train came in — huge, noisy, threatening in the silence. Ralph 
sprang expertly aboard. The familiar sense of travel engulfed him 
immediately. He had found his berth, arranged things swiftly, before 
the station of Walnut was left behind. He was alert, modern, a 
traveler again. 

But all night long, as he lay half sleeping, swinging slightly with the 
motion of the train, he was conscious of that silent spreading country 
outside, over which changes passed like the clouds above the pastures, 
and it gave him a deep quietude. 



INVOCATION 

Stephen Vincent Benet 

Not for the great, not for the marvelous, 

Not for the barren husbands of the gold, 

Not for the arrowmakers of the soul, 

Wasted with truth, the star-regarding wise; 

Not even for those few 

Who would not be the hunter nor the prey, 

Who stood between the eater and the meat, 

The wilderness saints, the guiltless, the absolved, 

Born out of Time, the seekers of the balm 

Where the green grass grows from the broken heart; 

But for all these, the nameless numberless 

Seed of the field, the mortal wood and earth 

Hewn for the clearing, trampled for the floor, 

Uprooted and cast out upon the stone 

From Jamestown to Benicia. 

This is their song, this is their testament, 

Carved to their likeness, speaking in their tongue 

And branded with the iron of their star. 

I say you shall remember them. I say 

When night has fallen on your loneliness 

And the deep wood beyond the ruined wall 

Seems to step forward swiftly with the dusk 

You shall remember them. You shall not pass 

Water or wheat or axe-mark on the tree 

And not remember them. 

You shall not win without remembering them 

For they won every shadow of the moon, 

All the vast shadows, and you shall not lose 

Without a dark remembrance of their loss, 

For they lost all and none remembered them. 

Hear the wind 

Blow through the bufralo-grass 

Blow over wild grape and brier. 



140 



Tasting the Mountain Spring "* 

This was frontier, and this, 
And this, your house, was frontier. 
There were footprints upon the hill 
And men lie buried under, 
Tamers of earth and rivers. 
They died at the end of labor. 
Forgotten is the name. 

Now, in full summer, by the Eastern shore, 
• Between the seamark and the roads going West, 

I call two oceans to remember them. 
I fill the hollow darkness with their names. 



TASTING THE MOUNTAIN SPRING 

Loren C. Eiseley 

The spring comes to us through a mile of wood 

Beginning in the high cold acres where 

Snow water starts, but seeping downward there 

Through veins of crystal, takes a darker mood, 

Feeds roots— things at the abysmal sources of 

All life. Sticks and wet stones and thirsts 

Of worm and toad-stool, unseen starry bursts 

Of damp wood-pollen fill it— taste enough 

To let you know it has come down the brink 

Of more than thunder. ... In this foaming ditch 

Water with earth's iron tainted and defiled 

Mingles with stars, but, for myself, I drink 

Like fawn or antelope, untasting which, 

So long as all that water's quick and wild. 




The Whistle 



Eudora Welti 



NIGHT fell. The darkness was thin, like some sleazy dress that 
has been worn and worn for many winters and always lets the 
cold through to the bones. Then the moon rose. The farm lay 
quite visible like a sunken stone among the stretches of deep woods 
in their colorless dead leaf. By a closer and more searching eye than 
the moon's, the tiny tomato plants belonging to the Mortons might 
have been seen in their neat rows beside the house — gray and feather- 
like, appalling in their exposed fragility. The moonlight covered 
everything, and lay upon the darkest shape of all, the farmhouse 
where the lamp had just been blown out. 

Inside, Jason and Sara Morton were lying between the quilts of a 
pallet which had been made up close to the fireplace. A fire still flut- 
tered in the grate, making a drowsy sound now and then, and its ex- 
hausted light beat up and down the wall, across the rafters, and over 
the dark pallet where the old people lay, like a bird trying to find its 
way out of the room. 

The long-spaced, tired breathing of Jason was the only noise besides 
the flutter of the fire. He lay under the quilt in a long shape like a 
bean, turned on his side to face the barred door. His thin beard hung 
from his wryly held jaw, his lips moved once in the silence, and in and 
out he breathed, in and out, slowly and with a sound like a wind 
among the dead trees — a rattle and a sigh. 

Sara lay on her back with her toothless mouth agape, as silent as 
Jason was noisy. Her eyes seemed opened too wide, the lids strained 
and limp, like openings which have been stretched shapeless and made 
useless. She was staring at the dark and indistinguishable places among 
the rafters. Once a hissing yellow flame stood erect on the old log, 
and her grey face and carrot-colored hair, flattened on the pallet, were 

142 



The Whistle H3 

illuminated for a moment, with shadows bright-blue. Then she laid 
her sleeve across her eyes. 

Neither husband nor wife had spoken. They lay trembling with 
cold, but no more communicative in their misery than a pair of win- 
dowshutters beaten by a storm. Sometimes many days, weeks, went 
by without words. They were fifty years old; their lives were filled 
with tiredness, with a great lack of necessity to speak, with poverty 
which may have bound them like a disaster too great for any discussion 
but left them still separate and undesirous of sympathy. Perhaps, years 
ago, the long habit of silence may have been started in anger or passion. 
Who could tell now ? 

As the fire grew lower and lower, Jason's breathing grew heavy and 
solemn, and at last he was asleep. Sara's body was as weightless as a 
strip of cane; there was hardly a shape to the quilt under which she 
was lying, and sometimes it seemed to her that it was her lack of 
weight which kept her from ever getting warm. Sara was so tired 
of the cold! That was all it could do any more— make her tired. Year 
after year, she felt sure that she would die before the cold was over. 
Now, according to the almanac, it was spring. But year after year, it 
was all the same. This was not their farm any longer now; it belonged 
to Mr. Perkins, but that too was almost forgotten in the sameness of 
the years. The tomato plants would be set out in their frames, trans- 
planted always too soon, often killed before any start had been made 
at all. And then some years they would grow tall and full, if the 
freezes only held off, and then there was a crop. 

Like a vain dream, Sara began to have thoughts of the spring and 
summer. At first she thought only simply — of the colors of green 
and red, the smell of sun on the ground, of leaves and warm ripening 
tomatoes. Then, her arms pressing together under the quilt, she began 
to imagine and remember the town of Verdy in the shipping season. 
It became a time of almost legendary festivity, a place of pleasure. On 
the roads everybody was bringing tomatoes to the packing sheds on 
the railroad at Verdy Station, where Mr. Perkins, the tall gesticulating 
figure, stood in the very center of everything, buying, directing, waving 
telegrams, shouting with impatience. Long trains of empty freight 
cars stood waiting and being filled. There were all the strange people 
— the younger farmers they never saw at any other time, the harassed 
storekeepers of Verdy, the packers who had come all the way from 
Florida, tanned, stockingless, some of them tattooed. The music box 



144 Eudora Welty 

was playing in the cafe across the road, and the old crippled man was 
back taking pictures for a dime of the young people with their heads 
together. The men were getting drunk, and a pistol would go off. 
The children were having a tomato fight and running along beside 
the railroad track, smeared red and screaming, bumping into their 
elders. In the sheds the sorters were throwing out onto the rotting 
ground the hundreds of oversized tomatoes, the irregulars, the overripe. 
A strong, sickening, sweet smell hung over everything. Some of the 
packers were resting for only a moment, stretched out, stained with 
sweat, in the shade, and one was playing a guitar. The girl wrappers 
from Florida had small brown hands, young, incredibly rapid, red 
with juice. Their faces were sleepy and flushed; when the men spoke 
to them, they laughed. 

And Jason and Sara would be standing there. How quickly the 
tomatoes were purchased! They were nodding their heads, and then 
there was nothing else to do but stand in the burning sun near the 
shed, watching the tomatoes shoved at once into the breath-taking 
procedure of sorting, wrapping, loading . . . seeing that it was all over 
with, that they were out of it now, themselves, of no more use, even to 
Mr. Perkins, until another year. The packers would walk by and stare 
at them briefly, burned brown from Florida, where the crops there had 
driven down the Mississippi prices to almost nothing again. In Florida, 
perhaps, it did not freeze in spring. Later, in Mr. Perkins' book, a 
few small debts might be written off, leaving the longstanding debts 
still there. Sometimes the season lasted six weeks, sometimes only 
three. It depended on the weather. 

Sara, cold, stiff and weightless under the quilt, could think of the 
pleasures of Verdy and of the ripe tomatoes only in brief snatches, like 
the flare-up of the little fire. The rest of the time she thought only of 
cold, of the cold going on before and after. She felt the chill of the 
here and now, which was not to think at all, but was only a trembling 
in the dark. 

She coughed patiently and turned her head to one side. She peered 
beneath her arm and saw that the fire had at last gone out and left 
only a hulk of red log, a still red bent shape, like one of Jason's wool 
socks thrown into the fireplace. With only this to comfort her, Sara 
closed her eyes and fell asleep. The husband and wife now lay per- 
fectly still, with Jason's hoarse, slow breathing, like the commotion of 
some clumsy old bear trying to climb a tree, heard by nobody at all. 



The Whistle H5 

Every hour it was getting colder and colder. The moon, intense 
and white as the snow that never falls in Mississippi, drew lower in 
the sky, in the long night, and nearer to earth. The farm looked as 
hard and still as a sea shell, with the little knob of a house surrounded 
by its curved furrows of tomato plants. Cold like a white pressing 
hand reached down and lay over the shell. 

In Verdy there is a great whistle which is blown when a freeze 
threatens. It is Mr. Perkins' whistle. Now it sounded out in the clear 
night, blast after blast. Over the countryside, lights appeared in the 
windows of the farms, and men and women ran out into the fields 
and covered up their plants with whatever they had. 

Jason Morton was not waked up by the great whistle. On and on 
he slept, his cavernous breathing like roars coming from a hollow tree. 
His right hand had been thrown out in his sleep and lay stretched 
on the cold floor, all its misshapen swollen fingers, with the big veins 
standing in them, shining in the moonlight which had moved across 
the room. 

Sara felt herself waking. She knew that the whistle was blowing, 
what it meant— and that it now remained for her to get Jason and go 
out to the field. A soft laxity, an illusion of warmth, flowed stubbornly 
down her body and for a few moments she continued to lie still. 

Then she was sitting up and seizing her husband by the shoulders, 
without saying a word, rocking him back and forth. It took all her 
strength. He coughed and sat up. He said nothing either, and they 
both listened to the whistle. After a silence, it blew again, a long 
rising blast. 

Sara and Jason got out of bed. They were both fully dressed, except 
for their shoes, because of the cold. Jason lighted the lantern and 
Sara gathered the bedclothes over her arm and followed him out. 

Everything was white. White in a shadowed pit, abandoned from 
summer to summer, the old sorghum mill stood like the machine of 
a dream, with its long prostrate pole, its blunted axis. 

Stooping over the little plants, Jason and Sara touched them and 
touched the earth. For their own knowledge, by their hands, they 
found everything to be true— the cold, the Tightness of the warning, 
the desperation. Over the sticks set in among the plants, they laid all 
the quilts, spreading them with a slow ingenuity. Jason took off his 
coat and laid it over the small tender plants by the side of the house. 
Then he glanced at Sara, and she reached down and pulled her dress 



146 Eudora Welty 

off over her head. Her hair fell down out of its pins and she began 
at once to tremble violently. The skirt was long and full, and all the 
rest of the plants were covered by the dress. Then Sara and Jason stood 
for a moment and stared almost idly at the field and up at the sky. 

There was no wind. There was only the intense whiteness of moon- 
light. Yet its cold sank into them like the teeth of a trap. They bent 
their shoulders and walked silently back into the house. 

The room was not much warmer. They had forgotten to shut the 
door behind them when they went out. Jason poured kerosene over 
more kindling and struck a light to it. Squatting, they got near it and 
sat motionless until it had all burned down. Then Jason, in his under- 
wear and long blue trousers, went out and brought in another load, 
and the last big cherry log which they had been saving. 

The extravagant warmth of the room had sent some kind of agitation 
over Sara, like her memories of Verdy in the shipping season. She sat 
huddled in a long brown cotton petticoat with a string run around 
the waist. Her carrot-colored hair, white at the temples, was hanging 
loose down to her shoulders, like a child's unbound for a party. She 
held her knees against her numb, pendulant breasts and stared into 
the fire, her eyes widening. 

On the other side of the hearth, Jason watched the fire burning too. 
His thin cracked lips parted, and through his open mouth his breath 
came quickly, gently, noiselessly, as though he were concealing all his 
tiredness. He lifted his long arms and held his trembling misshapen 
hands out to the fire. 

Towards morning the kindling was all gone. The cherry log had 
burned to ashes. Jason and Sara sat in darkness, where their bed had 
lain, and it was colder than ever. 

Sara trembled violently, again pressing her hard knees against her 
breast. In the return of winter, of the night's cold, something strange, 
like fright, or dependency, a sensation of complete loss, took possession 
of her shaking body. 

All at once she spoke, without turning her head, but loudly. 

"Jason, are you cold over there?" 

She heard a silence break the rhythm of his difficult breathing. But 
only for a moment. 

"No," said her husband's uncertain voice. 

Then they were silent as before. 




The Duel With Yellow Hand 



Stanley Vestal 



WHEN, early in 1876, war was declared against Sitting Bull and 
the Sioux, Buffalo Bill was restless, fretting at the monotony 
of daily appearances in the theater. As Chief of Scouts for the Fifth 
Cavalry, he felt that his place was once more on the frontier; but he 
went on with his work, appearing regularly before crowded houses. 
Then, one night in Chicago as he sat in his dressing room, a telegram 
was handed in. Forgetful of his part, Cody rushed out on the stage 
without waiting for his cue. He waved the telegram above his head 
and shouted that he was through playing at war; he was going out 
West to take part in a real war. General Sheridan had summoned him 
for service with the Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition, commanded 
by Brigadier General George Crook. He was assigned to his old outfit, 
the Fifth United States Cavalry, then commanded by Lieutenant 
Colonel Eugene Carr. 

The crowd applauded wildly; Cody waved his hat, rushed from 
the theater, and boarded a train. 

When he arrived at Cheyenne, Wyoming, he was still wearing the 
black velvet Mexican suit, handsomely decorated with gold lace and 
silver buttons, which he wore in the theater; he was too eager to rejoin 
the Fifth Cavalry to stop to buy new clothes. He hired a rig and drove 
out to Fort D. A. Russel, looking more like a Spanish bullfighter than 
a frontier scout. When he got down from the buckboard, Colonel 
Carr and the veterans of the regiment did not recognize Cody at first. 
They had never before seen him in such a fantastic costume. 

Then somebody saw his long hair and let out a yell: "It's Buffalo 
Bill! Hey, Bill, where did you get that hat?" They accused him of 
trying to pass himself off as a Mexican general. 

147 



148 Stanley Vestal 

In those days Indian fighters dressed to suit themselves. In fact, 
even soldiers of the regular army paid little attention to uniform regu- 
lations while on campaign. All who could substituted felt hats, buck- 
skins, buffalo coats, cardigan jackets, and moccasins for the regulation 
forage cap, blue jacket, and boots. Hardly one in five of the soldiers 
was in uniform when riding after Indians. So after the first big 
laugh, nobody paid any attention to Cody's clothes. On the frontier 
a man could wear what he liked. 

For a few days Cody remained at the post, looking up old friends, 
of whom he had very many in the regiment. As Captain Charles King 
reports in his book, Campaigning With Croo\ and Stories of Army 
Life, "The Fifth had a genuine affection for Bill; he was a tried and 
true comrade— one who for cool daring and judgment had no su- 
perior. He was a beautiful horseman, an unrivalled shot, and as a scout 
unequalled. We had tried them all— Hualpais and Tontos in Arizona ; 
half-breeds on the great plains. We had followed Custer's old guide, 
'California Joe,' in Dakota; met handsome Bill Hickok (Wild Bill) 
in the Black Hills; trailed for weeks after Crook's favorite, Frank 
Grouard, all over the Big Horn and Powder River country; hunted Nez 
Perces with Cosgrove and his Shoshones among the Yellowstone moun- 
tains, and listened to 'Captain Jack' Crawford's yarns and rhymes in 
many a bivouac in the Northwest. They were all noted men in their 
way, but Bill Cody was the paragon." 

Buffalo Bill and the regiment headed north for Fort Laramie about 
the middle of June, 1876. There were eight troops in the outfit. On 
the twenty-second of June they moved on from the fort with orders 
to find the old Indian trail which led northwest from the Red Cloud 
and Spotted Tail Reservations and Camp Robinson toward the camps 
of Sitting Bull's hostile Sioux, supposed to be somewhere between the 
Yellowstone River and the Big Horn Mountains. It was their duty to 
intercept any Indians leaving the reservations to join Sitting Bull. 
Cody, as Chief of Scouts for the regiment, led the way. 

The main Indian trails were well beaten. The Indians were in the 
habit of leaving the reservation to hunt buffalo, as allowed by their 
treaties with the United States. When they went on a hunt, they 
were usually absent for weeks and sometimes months, and took along 
their tents and families. They had no wagons. The women bundled 
the tent cover on a pack horse and tied the tepee poles to the saddle, 
letting the ends drag on either side of the horse. This made a triple 



The Duel With Yellow Hand 149 

rut, and a main trail consisted of several of these triple ruts running 
side by side. 

The soldiers struck the trail they were looking for in the valley of 
the South Cheyenne River (the Dry Fork), where they made camp. 
This was on the twenty-fifth of June— a fatal day for the United States 
Army, though Buffalo Bill and his comrades had not dreamed of de- 
feat. At the time, they knew only that Generals Custer, Terry, and 
Gibbon were in command of three expeditions with orders to converge 
on the hostile camp of the Sioux. 

Cody and his men were kept busy scouting in the neighborhood, 
watching all the trails along which Indians might push to the north- 
west. On July 1 Colonel Wesley Merritt arrived in camp, having 
been promoted to the command of the expedition. On the third, two 
troops saw Indians and gave chase. But after a ride lasting all day, 
the Indians outran them. It was difficult for cavalrymen to overtake 
Indians, for the savages had many horses and could travel fast; whereas 
the soldier had but one, which was loaded down with heavy equip- 
ment, ammunition, and rations. 

On July 7, just after daybreak, a courier came riding with a brief 
message: "Custer and five troops, Seventh Cav., killed." 

The news of this disaster was like a bombshell. Custer was a famous 
general, a seasoned cavalryman of the Civil War, renowned for his 
dash and courage. He was popularly known as the Boy General, and 
in all his service he had never lost a gun or flag. Now he was gone. It 
was hard for Cody and his comrades to believe that. But if it were 
true, it called for vengeance. 

Far to the north in Montana on the Big Horn River, General Custer 
and five troops of his regiment had been wiped out by the Indians of 
Sitting Bull's camp. Custer had been in disgrace because he had ex- 
posed the corruption of President Grant's Indian Administration. He 
had been eager to redeem himself, and had pushed his men very hard 
in order to reach the hostile camp before Terry and Gibbon could get 
there. He had hoped to win a great victory, and then become a candi- 
date for the presidency of the United States. His scouts had told him 
that he would find more Indians with Sitting Bull than he could 
handle, but Custer did not believe them. He had always beaten the 
redskins. 

He divided his command into three parts. Major Reno went north 
down the Little Horn. Captain Benteen was sent to strike from the 



150 Stanley Vestal 

west, while Custer rode along the bluffs, heading for the ford east of 
the camp. Reno arrived first and found himself outnumbered; driven 
back with heavy losses, he dug in on the bluffs. Benteen was delayed, 
and had to turn back and join Reno. Meanwhile, Custer had been 
surrounded on the bluffs, and his force wiped out by thousands of 
warriors. 

Cody and the Fifth Cavalry, of course, knew none of this except 
what had come in the message. The stunned regiment stayed in camp 
for two days, awaiting orders. On July 10 a dispatch arrived from the 
commanding officer at Camp Robinson on the reservation: "Southern 
Cheyennes preparing to take the warpath." The same day orders 
came: "March to Fort Laramie. Fill up with supplies. Then march 
via Fort Fetterman to join command of General Crook." On July 11, 
a second messenger galloped from Camp Robinson : "Cheyennes surely 
going, probably 800 strong." 

By this time Chief Spotted Tail, who had watched the troops leave 
Fort Laramie, had spread the news of their march up and down the 
country. Many Indians began planning to leave the agencies earlier 
than they had intended, fearing that the soldiers might prevent them 
from joining Sitting Bull. 

It seemed certain that the Indians would outnumber the troops. 
Next day the Fifth Cavalry marched back toward Fort Laramie and 
made camp on a small stream in a furious storm of rain and hail. 
Another day's march brought them to Rawhide Creek. This stream 
took its name from the fact that in earlier days the Indians had there 
skinned a white man alive for killing one of their women. On July 14 
the regiment camped at the crossing of the Laramie-Robinson road, 
hoping to receive news from the fort at that point. 

When Colonel Merritt knew the Cheyennes were coming, he was 
in a difficult position. His duty was to stop the Indians and keep them 
from joining Sitting Bull, but his orders were to combine forces with 
General Crook. If he let the Indians get away to join Sitting Bull and 
thus strengthen hostile forces, he might be court-martialed for neglect 
of duty. On the other hand, if he failed to join Crook, he could be 
court-martialed for disobedience of orders. He was faced with a hard 
decision. 

But Colonel Merritt was no weakling. He made his decision at 
once : Let General Crook take care of himself. Merritt called the bugler 



The Duel With Yellow Hand 151 

and gave his orders. The man put the trumpet to his lips and sounded 
Boots and Saddles. 

Within a few minutes the command was on the march, heading for 
Hat Creek, sometimes called Warbonnet Creek, where the Indian trail 
from Camp Robinson crossed. From Camp Robinson on the reserva- 
tion to that point on Hat Creek the Indians would have to ride only 
about thirty miles, or one day's march. To head them off the Fifth 
Cavalry would have to ride eighty miles in the same time. 

In those days a man with two good horses, one to ride and the other 
to lead, so that he could change from one to the other frequently, might 
cover a hundred miles or a little more in a single day. An expert 
horseman on an excellent horse, traveling light, would ordinarily do 
seventy-five miles. Indians in a hurry, traveling with their families 
and many spare horses, could make fifty miles a day. The average 
march for mounted troops with full equipment was seldom more than 
twenty. 

But the Fifth Cavalry, starting at 1 p. m. and following the old 
Black Hills Road from Fort Laramie, reached their objective after being 
in the saddle thirty-one marching hours! This ride is famous in the 
annals of the United States Cavalry. Buffalo Bill and his scouts rode 
at the head of the command all the way. 

About sunset the second day the soldiers reached Hat Creek near the 
mouth of Antelope Creek, just north of the Black Hills Stage Road 
which came in from the west. The Indian trail crossed this stage road 
east of Hat Creek and went on to the northwest. This crossing of the 
trails was due north of the present town of Montrose, in the far north- 
west corner of Nebraska. South of the crossing was Picket Hill. The 
regiment halted in the brush and timber under the bluff along the 
creek, out of sight of the Indian trail. 

Worn o-.t by their record ride, the men had also had no supper, for 
their rations were exhausted. In order to travel so fast, they had car- 
ried only enough for one day. The weary troopers unsaddled, rolled 
up in their blankets, and were soon snoring. No fires were lighted; 
no trumpet calls were sounded. Orders were given to maintain strict 
silence. The camp was in blackout. 

But there was no rest for Buffalo Bill, though he was supperless, like 
all the others. He needed a man for lookout — a man he could depend 
upon. On the scout detail was a trooper named Chris Madsen. Madsen 
belonged to the Fifth Cavalry; before coming to the United States, he 



152 Stanley Vestal 

had fought well through several campaigns in Denmark, Africa, and 
France. He was a real soldier, faithful, brave, and cool in the face of 
danger. Bill knew that Chris understood signaling and was equipped 
with signal flags and torches. Of course, he also had field glasses. 

Bill, therefore, ordered him to act as lookout and stationed him on 
top of Picket Hill, a conical bare butte with a few rocks lying about 
the summit, which overlooked all that rolling prairie country. Chris 
had a fine view of the low hills from which the Indians were expected 
to emerge. He could also see the regiment in camp under the bluffs 
and could signal messages to it. 

But Buffalo Bill never demanded that his men do more than he was 
ready to do himself. He had led the regiment to the Indian trail, and 
had made sure that the Cheyennes had not yet passed by. But he had 
still to locate their camp. Long before daylight, Bill saddled up and 
prepared to leave Madsen's station. "I'm going to find those Indians," 
he said, and rode off alone into the darkness, heading for the Indian 
trail. 

This was a dangerous mission, for a careless man might run head-on 
into the Indian camp before he knew it. But Cody understood his 
business. Quietly he rode forward along the Indian trail, mile after 
mile, until he heard a faint sound in the distance. He reined up to 
listen. Far off, across a ridge, he heard a sharp bark. Wolves do not 
bark. That dog must belong to some Indian. Cautiously he rode up, 
got off his horse, and peered over the ridge. He could just make out 
the dim white cones which he knew were the tepees of the Indian 
camp. The Cheyennes had evidently started late and traveled slowly 
the previous day. Cody waited until he saw them catching their ponies 
to break camp. Then he slipped back down the ridge, mounted his 
horse, and hurried back to Picket Hill. There he told Madsen what 
he had found ; the lookout began to signal this information to Colonel 
Merritt at the camp. 

The tired sentries on watch at the camp were sleepy and slow to catch 
the signals. It would soon be daybreak; Cody could not wait. He rode 
down the butte, crossed the creek, and delivered his message to the 
colonel in person. 

Captain Charles King, the adjutant, had the men awakened immedi- 
ately. They were hungry, but there was no breakfast for them, not 
even a cup of coffee ; the wagon train with the supplies was far behind, 
coming along somewhere on the Black Hills Stage Road. It did not 



The Duel With Yellow Hand 153 

take long to saddle up. The troopers stood holding their horses, wait- 
ing under the bluffs for the command to mount. Colonel Merritt, 
Captain King, and Buffalo Bill climbed the hill to Madsen's station. 
There they kept watch, waiting for the Cheyennes to appear over the 
hills to the east. 

Chris Madsen with his glasses was the first to see the Indians coming 
—a small group of about fifty warriors, riding far in advance to spy 
out the land ahead of the main party. Cody and his scouts kept out 
of sight as the Indians jogged slowly along. After a bit the main camp 
came into view far behind, marching at a walk — dogs, pack mules, 
and all. There were hundreds of the Indians, so many that they were 
not afraid to travel slowly. It looked as if they would ride right into 
the trap. 

Then suddenly everything went wrong. Cody and his companions 
saw the advance group of warriors turn sharply to the left, out of the 
main trail, and down a ravine leading to the southwest. 

At first Cody could see no reason for this swift change of direction. 
Then, scanning the country all around, he saw two mounted couriers 
riding up the Black Hills Stage Road from the west, and behind them 
the wagon train rolling along, unmindful of danger. Those Cheyenne 
warriors were heading for the wagon train, hoping to cut off the cour- 
iers and launch a surprise attack. The wagons were almost unde- 
fended. The couriers were sure to be killed. Instantly, Cody informed 
the colonel. 

Colonel Merritt could not sit on the hill and allow the Indians to 
wipe out those men. He ordered Cody to try to reach and warn the 
wagon train. Cody galloped down the butte, rounded up fifteen 
scouts and soldiers, and galloped off again, leaving Madsen and the two 
officers on Picket Hill, where they could see it all. 

That morning Cody was mounted on a small bay horse — an unruly, 
headstrong animal, which most men were afraid to ride. Cody led 
the scouts away from the camp to the southwest, so that they were hid- 
den from the Indians by the butte and then along a dry, grassy ravine 
quite out of sight of the Indians. Thus the Indians were riding along 
one ravine and Cody along another. 

These two ravines ran together on a flat open space to the south of 
Picket Hill. Cody did not know that, and, of course, the Indians were 
not expecting him. But Chris Madsen, Colonel Merritt, and Captain 



154 Stanley Vestal 

King could see everything from the top of the butte. All three were 
eyewitnesses of what followed. 

Cody galloped along some distance ahead of his scattered men on 
their fagged horses. The leader of the Cheyennes, Yellow Hand or 
Yellow Hair, was also far ahead of the other braves. 

Suddenly, only a hundred yards away, Cody saw the Indian coming 
on his calico pony. The other scouts, far behind, had not yet seen him. 
The Cheyenne was no doubt surprised, but he was a brave man. He 
let out a yell and dashed forward. Buffalo Bill never looked back; 
the minute he saw Yellow Hand, he spurred his horse forward and 
threw up his rifle to fire. At the same moment the Indian raised his 
own weapon. Both fired. The reports sounded like one shot. 

Through the smoke of the discharge, Cody saw the Indian slump 
forward on his pony's neck as the pinto went down. At the same 
moment he felt his own horse falling under him. It had stepped into 
a prairie-dog hole. Cody jumped clear of the horse, lost his feet, and 
fell. As he got up, he saw Yellow Hand crouching by his dead horse, 
with ready rifle. The Indian fired again. Kneeling, Buffalo Bill took 
deliberate aim and fired his second shot at the Indian's head. That 
ended the battle; the warrior slumped to the ground. Cody mounted 
his horse, rode over to the fallen Indian and dismounted. The first 
bullet had passed through the Indian's leg to kill his pony; the second 
had gone through his head. 

When their leader fell, the other Indians came swarming forward, 
yelping and whooping, to kill Cody. By that time, however, his small 
party of scouts was coming up; and soon after, Colonel Mason at the 
head of Troop K came racing around the butte to his rescue. A few 
shots were fired. Then the Indians, seeing themselves outnumbered, 
quickly turned around and high-tailed it back toward their main body. 

Cody looked at the man he had killed. Yellow Hand was wearing 
an American flag for a breech cloth! In the Indian's hair was tied a 
scalp— a long yellow curl, the hair of some young woman. Cody 
whipped out his knife and quickly removed Yellow Hand's own scalp. 

As the troops filed by, their carbines still in the boots on their saddles, 
Cody stood up and waved Yellow Hand's warbonnet and hair over 
his head. He had taken "the first scalp for Custer." What was more 
important, he had turned all those Indians back, rescued the couriers, 
and probably saved Colonel Merritt from a court-martial. Sometimes 
a single combat produces a great victory. 



The Duel With Yellow Hand 155 

Long after, a number of persons threw doubt upon this brave deed 
of Buffalo Bill and declared that the Indian named Yellow Hand or 
Yellow Hair had been killed by someone else. But the statements of 
Colonel Merritt, Captain King, and Chris Madsen all agree in giving 
Cody the whole credit. Merritt and King are now dead, but they 
have left a record of what they saw. Chris Madsen has had an un- 
blemished record as a soldier and peace officer; he helped tame the 
bad men of early days in Oklahoma, where he still lives. Whenever 
you find three honest men together, the chances are one of them will 
be Chris Madsen. 

On August 28, 1929, Madsen made a sworn statement in Oklahoma 
County, Oklahoma, describing what happened in the fight with Yellow 
Hand. "It was Cody who killed Yellow Hand," he declares in this 
statement, "and no other shots were fired so far as I could hear or see 
until the Indian was done for. I was close enough to see it all, and 
besides was practically out of the danger zone." In a letter to the late 
Brigadier General W. C. Brown, U. S. A. retired, written at Guthrie, 
Oklahoma, on September 15, 1932, Madsen says: "It strikes me as a 
funny proposition that so many men who were present (or not present) 
at the time of the fight, claim to have killed the Indian. I served with 
most of those men for 15 years and never in all that time heard anyone 
claim to have even fired a shot, until after Cody was dead." Madsen 
goes on to name the man who, he says, "found all those killers." With 
regard to Cody's fight with Yellow Hand, Madsen adds: "I was in a 
place where I had a good chance to have fired a shot at the Indian, but 
I was on duty to watch and report my observations and not to meddle 
with business of the troops operating under orders of their respective 
officers. So for that reason, I am about the only man who saw the 
fight who did not kill the Indian!" 

Moreover, Sergeant John Hamilton of D Troop, Fifth United States 
Cavalry, in answer to questions put by General W. C. Brown, in a 
letter dated September 11, 1929, tells how the troops saddled before 
sunrise and waited behind the ridge. Hamilton was peeking over the 
ridge in front of his troop near Headquarters, perhaps four hundred 
yards from the Indians. He saw the fight. "I saw Cody and Yellow 
Hand about 100 yards apart going towards each other firing at the 
same time," he wrote. "The other scouts were some distance away 
and scattered. I saw Cody either jump or fall from his horse, remount, 
and ride over towards Yellow Hand, who either hung to his pony's 



156 Stanley Vestal 

neck or fell off. They were in a kind of hollow or swale. At that 
time nobody was around them. 

"At this time I had to return to my troop, and we moved forward at 
a fast gait. My troop passed where Yellow Hand lay. I stopped within 
two yards of the dead chief to fix saddle on a pack mule that had be- 
come loose, with Private Daddy Aaron, and had a good look at him. 
He was laying on his stomach, head on folded or bent arms, his scalp 
was taken, and he had on his person a paint bag, a scalp of hair, yellow 
color, of some young woman, ten bracelets on arm, a charm, a wampum 
belt, war feather, moccasins, and a cotton American flag as a breech 
cloth. Being unable to lead the mule, I had the halter shank tied 
up. ... I saw Cody that day with warbonnet and scalp. At dark Cody 
traveled at rear of the troop. I was rear Sergeant. He rode alongside 
of me until we got to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, sometime after dark." 

In spite of all this, afterward some people not only denied that Buffalo 
Bill had killed Yellow Hand, but went further and said that the Indian 
was never scalped. But the testimony of living Indians belonging to 
Yellow Hand's family does not bear out their story. 

When a monument was erected on Hat Creek near Montrose, Ne- 
braska, at the site of Buffalo Bill's fight with Yellow Hand, those in 
charge arranged an interview with Cheyenne relatives of Yellow Hand 
then living on the reservation. One of these was Jim Tangle Yellow 
Hair of Ashland, nephew of Yellow Hand ; and another, the dead man's 
sister, Josie Tangle Yellow Hair. Josie said that she herself did not 
witness her brother's death. About a month after the fight, however, 
Yellow Hand's relatives had gone out to look for his body. They had 
found the bones of the dead warrior, and on coming back said that 
they could tell he had been scalped. 

Some people, unfamiliar with Indian warfare, have criticized Buffalo 
Bill for scalping the Indian. Such criticism seems unfair. From the 
beginning of Indian wars, white scouts had followed the Indian custom 
of scalping, saying that they must fight the devil with fire. The Indian 
valued his scalp above everything, believing that without it he could 
not be happy in the world to come. Indian warriors were not afraid of 
death. Many even looked forward to dying in battle. Only the fear 
of scalping could intimidate them or keep them from going on the 
warpath. Besides, it would have angered any white man to see that 
yellow curl dangling from Yellow Hand's hair. The Cheyennes often 
wore scalps of their victims in that manner. I myself once saw a long 



The Duel With Yellow Hand 157 

yellow curl, taken from the head of some unfortunate white girl, tied 
in the hair of an old warrior at the Cheyenne Sun Dance in Oklahoma 
in 1913. Even at that late date those white men who saw it were angry. 

There can be no doubt, then, that Buffalo Bill killed and scalped 
Yellow Hand. The duel was "as plucky a single combat on both sides 
as is ever witnessed," in the words of Captain Charles King. 

The "Record of Events" from the files of the War Department reports 
the fight, and subsequent happenings, thus: "Had an engagement with 
party of about 45 Indians on 17 July near Indian Creek— killing one 
Indian. No casualties in the regiment. Followed the Indians toward 
the Red Cloud Reservation. About twenty-five miles from that Agency, 
the trail of a very large body of Indians was struck where they had 
turned back (being evidently apprised of our approach by runners 
from the party attacked in the morning) towards the Agency at Red 
Cloud; the trail was followed to within a short distance of the Agency 
where it turned off the Reservation towards the Spotted Tail Agency. 
This movement prevented many hundred warriors from joining the 
hostiles in the northern country. The command arrived and encamped 
at Red Cloud on the night of July 17, 1876." 

The records quoted here, containing the statements of Chris Madsen, 
Captain King, and Colonel Merritt, are now in the museum at Buffalo 
Bill's grave on Lookout Mountain, near Golden, Colorado. When you 
go there you may see Yellow Hand's scalp and the knife with which 
it was taken. 

On the scene of the duel, located by Captain King, Chris Madsen, and 
others, there stands a monument, with the following inscription: 

ON THIS SPOT 
BUFFALO BILL 

KILLED 

YELLOW HAIR 

THE 

CHEYENNE LEADER WHO, WITH 

A PARTY OF WARRIORS, DASHED 

DOWN THIS RAVINE TO WAYLAY 

TWO SOLDIERS COMING 

FROM THE WEST 

JULY 17, 1876 




Shadow of a Green Olive Tree 



Warren Beck 



WHEN he was a little boy, John was fond of visiting his great- 
uncle, whose mellow voice and halo of grey hair he venerated, 
and whose companionable ways he loved. The Reverend Mr. George 
Hancock Bennett— said his mail. John knew that neither his father nor 
his grandfathers ever were called anything but plain Mr. Bennett or 
Mr. Kemper; and he would murmur the august title, the Reverend Mr. 
Bennett, savoring its syllables and finding in it a sign that no one else 
could compare with Uncle George. 

Once at church, out of the flow of sung and spoken words that 
eddied around his ears while he mused on stained glass pictures of 
cross and crown, book and sword, and the wonderful trained lamb 
that carried a "banner, his great-uncle's voice read out a striking phrase 
—"I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, 
given unto me by the effectual working of his power"— and to John 
the words proclaimed the Reverend Mr. Bennett himself, moving about 
ceremoniously in flowing vestments and meekly listened to by all the 
grown-ups, who stood or knelt, sang or were silent, at his bidding. Out 
of church, when he could be thought of more easily as Uncle George 
again, he still seemed majestically set apart. While other men went 
to work in offices and shops, Uncle George remained all day in his 
study and its attached parlor. Fenced in there with glass-doored book- 
cases of tremendous proportions, attended by his black spaniel Esau, 
he paced back and forth through the two rooms, rehearsing his sermons 
in whispers that occasionally gave way to the full music of his deep- 
est voice. 

He was never in the least forbidding, though, to the small boy come 
visiting. He hugged him and asked a question or two and then seemed 
to forget him. John was left free to cut paper designs with the sharp 

158 



Shadow of a Green Olive Tree 159 

desk scissors, or to make a cave with chairs and rugs, or to build towers 
with the Encyclopaedia Britannica and lesser materials. Gradually 
John learned to look into the books for pictures and then to read in 
them. He ranged from the ponderous leather-bound Bible with Dore's 
terrifying illustrations to James Whitcomb Riley's poems, and he dwelt 
on The Boys of '61, Scottish Chiefs, and Huckleberry Finn, with 
Kemble's romantic sketches. Some of the best hours were those when 
Uncle George had quit his pacing and whispering and the two sat 
reading, the little boy on the floor by one of the bookcases, the old man 
in his Morris chair at the window, where he could glance away from 
his book and gaze at his back yard of peach and cherry trees. 

Sometimes, then, the old man would speak— strange ejaculations out 
of the ecstasy of his believing heart. Glimpses of the natural world, the 
seasons and sun and rain, the birds, bloom of tree and flower, the per- 
ennial leaf and grass— to him were all reminders of God's strength 
and mercy, manifest even in his own back yard, as everywhere. Bible 
verses burst from him like song, and he quoted Scripture as some people 
whistle, out of uncontrollable joy. Years afterward, when John's great- 
uncle was dead, and John himself a man so changed that it was as if, 
emigrating from his native land, he had forgotten the very language 
as well as the beliefs of his people, still in his memory phrases of that 
ancient Hebraic poetry would echo, and he still could see the Reverend 
George Bennett, white-maned and massive-shouldered, at the window, 
repeating old words in which he had found freshness for the hundredth 
time. 

" 'And the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of 
their coming.' . . . Turtle means dove, my lad. Soon that robin will be 
eating my cherries, John. Well, from the looks of the blossoms there 
will be fruit enough for us all. 'He giveth to the beast his food, and to 
the young ravens which cry.' And to you and me, John. 'He hath 
given meat unto them that fear Him : He will ever be mindful of His 
covenant.' We can believe that, my boy. 'I am like a green olive tree 
in the house of God: my trust is in the tender mercy of God for ever 
and ever.' " 

The text was a favorite, and the image became a symbol. Accus- 
tomed by Bible verses to figurative language, John was pleased to 
think of his uncle George as a green olive tree. It sounded sturdy and 
prolific of kindly fruit, with a suggestion of comfortable shade for a 
small boy. Its strangeness was proper too; Uncle George was unique 



160 Warren Beck 

among men as an olive tree would have been among the back-yard 
cherries. 

Later, enlarging memory with a man's knowledge, John saw that his 
great-uncle George must have been one of the happiest of persons, that 
there in his study, meditating on his sermons, he had led a most event- 
ful life, absorbed in the drama of humanity's redemption, proud of his 
role in it, and looking with confidence to its denouement. Out of the 
dry leaves of his theological tomes he distilled fragrant sentiments 
that pervaded every cranny of his day. In this dream he lived, effort- 
lessly and with zest, like a gull in the air. So, to the boy his uncle 
George, in spite of his trances and rhapsodies, had never seemed like a 
wizard in a cave, but jolly and companionable, even when they sat to- 
gether silently, both reading. And if Uncle George looked up and 
said, in tones like big bells, "John, my lad, life is indeed a pilgrimage; 
we are sojourners, as were our fathers," the boy was not oppressed, but 
felt intimations of adventure, like a crusader. 

There were other times, and these were the very best, when Uncle 
George felt in the mood for playing. Often then he would draw pic- 
tures for John, strange amorphous pencil sketches, with wavering lines 
and a kind of withered look, as if the subjects — usually animals — had 
got soaking wet and had shrunk. Sometimes the two ran races from 
the east wall of the parlor to the west window in the study and back 
again, with Esau barking about their feet. Such exertions always 
brought refreshments out of the mysterious built-in cupboard with 
solid doors; its dark shelves supplied bologna for the dog, crackers and 
apples for the boy, crackers and port for the old man. After such a 
celebration the spaniel, an obedient creature alert to his master's ways, 
went unbidden to his place under the big desk, and the old man, pre- 
paring to soar again into his studies, sent John home with a hug and 
a kindly admonition to be a good boy. 

"Be a good boy!" Solemnly his elders all urged it upon him. They 
made the issue seem desperate. Someone called the Tempter, infinitely 
subtle, skilled, and wicked, was said to be stalking his human victims 
every hour. There was no hope of escape unless God lent a hand. 
That was really what made the Reverend Mr. George Hancock Bennett 
so important; his was the voice proclaiming God's intervention on 
man's side. People went to church to receive this assurance, and John 
noticed that their sobriety at prayers was succeeded by a pretty com- 



Shadow of a Green Olive Tree 161 

fortable look as they came out to resume the contest with the Tempter 
in the arena of this world. 

To John, the Tempter remained more of a mystery than anything 
else, and John's attitude was more of curiosity than of fear. As he 
galloped along the grass, in and out around the trees between curb and 
sidewalk on his solitary, perilous way through the deep woods to and 
from school, it was the villains of literature and not the Tempter who 
lurked in ambush. The ghastly blind Pew, out of Treasure Island, 
gave the boy many a bad night, but not so the Tempter. Once, indeed, 
John was bold enough to try to force the issue with the evasive Spirit 
of Evil. He manufactured dozens of cheesecloth pennants tacked to 
sticks and set them all out in martial ranks across Uncle George's back 
yard to fight the Devil. He had no doubt of victory, with God over all 
and Uncle George right there in his study just beyond the cherry trees. 
After three days of waiting, he decided he had been foolish to expect 
a personal appearance of man's awful adversary, and he frugally con- 
verted the occasion into a King Arthur tournament. But as he knocked 
an empty barrel about the yard with his pennanted clothes pole, he was 
sure he could have downed the Tempter just as easily. 

The Tempter, too, must have known he was no match for John and 
God and Uncle George. No doubt that was why he shunned all open 
conflict. John had heard of no personal appearance later than the one 
at which Martin Luther threw the bottle of ink, and that he knew 
was some years ago, even before Uncle George was born. He had seen 
a picture of somebody called St. Dunstan detaining the Devil by the 
nose with red-hot tongs, but that, too, was before Uncle George's time. 
John grappled with the rumor that the skulking Tempter now did his 
work in more ghostly ways. To the boy this was plainly unsporting, 
and he began to understand why grown-ups were so concerned. Such 
a sneak was to be doubly feared. But though he watched hard, John 
couldn't detect the Tempter trying any of his tricks on him; and so he 
decided not to worry about the Spirit of Evil until he had cause. 

The boy's tenth Christmas, having just passed, was still heavy in his 
memory, like a large pudding conglomerate of candy, nuts, and roast 
turkey, of gifts to be unwrapped and tides of visitors, and at the very 
center the dreamy mystery of a midnight church service at which 
Uncle George had spoken in so soft a voice of the child asleep in a 
manger that drowsy John had wondered if indeed the infant Jesus 
might not be there in the crib under the Christmas tree. Now another 



162 Warren Beck 

feast was at hand — New Year's Day. It was a church day for Uncle 
George, and banks and stores would be closed so that people could 
come and pray. However, this holiday seemed eclipsed by New Year's 
Eve. At John's house there was to be a party. The big punch bowl 
had been set out that afternoon, with its brood of little glasses crowded 
about it. A room was being cleared for dancing; complex preparations 
were going forward in the pantry. John was encouraged to get out 
from under foot and go pay Uncle George a visit. 

Although it was scarcely more than mid-afternoon, the sky was 
muffled in mists, and daylight had begun to fade. John couldn't gallop 
horseback through the wild woods between sidewalk and curb, for the 
snow had been heaped up there, but in places where the piles were 
higher than his head he traversed bleak wind-swept mountain passes on 
foot, sustaining himself by gnawing on pemmican, having providently 
filled a pocket with hard Christmas candies. Uncle George was sitting 
by the fireplace in his parlor, reading. He laid down his book, kissed 
John's cold, rosy cheek, and as he asked how John was and how his par- 
ents were, he smoothed the boy's rumpled hair with a gentle hand. 

"Shall we draw some pictures?" he suggested. 

John smiled and nodded, pleased to find him in the mood for play- 
ing. Uncle George threw a big log on the fire, went to his desk in the 
study, and returned with two tablets of unlined paper and two sharp- 
ened pencils. John preferred to sit on the arm of the chair and watch 
Uncle George draw. He knew just what to expect, but he liked to see 
the sketches take form. Years later he could still remember the 
mysterious thrill that crept over him when the familiar appeared as if 
magically out of the void of white paper under Uncle George's pencil. 

"Horses," he demanded, and the pencil began producing them, a 
whole herd, all clumsy and bluntly curved like animal crackers. 

"Such excellent horses must have a good barn," said Uncle George, 
while his pencil erected a wavering structure without a straight line or 
a genuine angle in it. 

"Once I rode one of my father's young horses up from the far 
pasture, with only a halter," said Uncle George, as he put windows 
like portholes into the barn. "He ran away with me and galloped in 
through a low door — a door like this. If I hadn't flattened myself on 
his back, I would have been knocked off. I might have been killed." 

"But you weren't," said John, triumphantly. "You knew what to do." 

"God's hand is over us all," said Uncle George. 



Shadow of a Green Olive Tree 163 

"Now a house," John demanded. 

"My father's old farmhouse was like this," said Uncle George, 
sketching a rambling structure that looked as if it were melting at all 
the corners. "We boys slept up here, in an unfinished attic. Father was 
going to finish it one year, but we asked him not to — we liked it as it 
was. The snow would sift through the cracks and pile up on our beds." 

"Didn't you get awfully cold?" John suggested. 

"No, we were used to it," said Uncle George. "Why, my brothers 
and I used to dare each other by running once or twice or even three 
times around the house in our bare feet in the snow." 

"Didn't you ever catch cold?" asked John, in awe. 

"Not that I remember," said Uncle George. 

"Maybe God protected you," John said. 

"No doubt He did, my boy, no doubt He did," Uncle George 
murmured. 

He laid aside the tablet, and rose and poked the fire. Then he 
walked out through the study and gazed at the trees in his yard, 
shadowy now in the dusk. 

" 'Unwarmed by any sunset light, the grey day darkened into night,' " 
he quoted. " 'I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should 
teach wisdom.' 'O, teach us to number our days, that we may apply 
our hearts unto wisdom.' " 

He turned from the window and began to pace back and forth 
through the rooms, his hands stuffed into his jacket pockets, his fact- 
relaxed in meditation. The boy knelt on the hearth and played the 
game of snatching half-burned bits out of the fire and throwing them 
into its center. 

"John," said the old man abruptly, while he still walked back and 
forth, "these are the last hours of the old year. The year is dying in 
the night. Soon it will be gone forever; we shall never see any of its 
days again." 

All at once John seemed to see the calendar leaves pieced together 
and stretched out corpse-like — with last February's deep snows and the 
sleigh-ride party on Washington's birthday, the young green leaves of 
last April when he and his playmates had fished the creek for shiners, 
the sultry Fourth of July with its splendid racket and stench of gun- 
powder, the cool nights last September when he had felt winged with 
life as he ran playing go-sheepie-go on the shadowy sidewalks, the 
gathered relatives last Thanksgiving feasting on turkey along the 



154 Warren Beck 

lengthened table, his pretty cousins Louise and Helen there to play 
with afterward, and the recent ecstasy of Christmas, a memory not 
yet a week old— all this, Uncle George was telling him, was gone for- 
ever, and he would never see any of it again. And Uncle George went 
on, stalking back and forth, talking solemnly in deep tones. 

"Perhaps some of the days gone by, if they could come back, would 
reproach us for things left undone that we ought to have done, for 
things done that we ought not to have done." 

John saw the pale dead days that were forever gone stretching white 
hands beseechingly to the miserable sinners who had misused them; 
and he felt, with a sudden pain in his throat, that he had not loved the 
old year enough. 

"But those days cannot come again," said Uncle George. "They are 
gone forever. 'As soon as thou scatterest them, they are even as a sleep, 
and fade away suddenly like the grass.' As the grass is renewed, John, 
so other days come on, but the old days that have gone are gone forever." 

Like an avalanche the weight of mortality fell all at once upon the 
small boy crouched there on the hearth by the wasting fire. The sands 
of time ran hissing to his ears, and shivering he heard a dark whetstone 
on a ghostly scythe. He had been warned of evil; now the knowledge 
of it confronted him, and he saw Time, for all his fatherly guise, as a 
relentless foe. All that the boy had heard about eternity, all that golden 
and musical dream of glorious courts timeless under an everlasting 
light, into which all was to be gathered up forever, faded away under 
the knowledge that things were, and then they were not, and that they 
could never be found again. Tears ran down his cheeks, and he began 
to sob. 

The old man looked surprised and a bit alarmed. Quickly he knelt 
on the hearth beside the boy and put an arm about him. 

"There, there, my lad," he consoled him, "you mustn't take it too 
hard. Don't break your heart regretting what is past; just resolve 
cheerfully by God's help to do differently in the new year." 

But the thoughts of boyhood, fluttering bat-like, erratic, shadowy, 
and weak of sight, dared not invade the clear daylight of the old man's 
self-assurance. John knew he could never explain to his uncle George 
what he himself felt so dimly, although so deeply, that he only wanted 
to go back into the old year and do the same things again in the same 
way, not to go forward into the new year to do differently and to dis- 
honor, by forgetting them, the old days that had been so sweet. 



Shadow of a Green Olive Tree 165 

"I'll go home now, Uncle George," he said, getting up with a look 
of grave resolution. "I'm all right." 

"Of course you're all right," said the old man, smiling as if to prove 
his words; but he followed the boy closely to the door and helped him 
with his coat and hat. 

"Now don't worry, John," he told him, in the mellowest of voices. 
"Just resolve to do your best, and the new year will be a blessed and 
joyous one for you." 

The boy kept his eyes averted, conscious of an unavoidable burden 
of duplicity. 

"Good-bye, Uncle George," he said, and slipped out through the 
door the old man held open for him. 

"Good-bye, my lad," said the old man, patting his head quickly as 
he passed. "Happy New Year, John." 

The boy walked home soberly. He played no games on the way. 
The dim thoughts froze slowly into a hard pain, and tears froze on 
his cheeks. He wiped the tears away. 

Outside his house he stopped to look. He must remember — as long 
as he could ; not forever, no, but as long as he lived — how it all was, the 
big assuring bulk of the house, the glow of light through the shutter 
chinks, the friendly width of the front door. Then before he went in 
he pulled off one mitten and laid his hand softly on the cold snow, 
because under the suns of the new year those myriad crystals would 
melt and be no more. 



THE TROUT MAP 



Allen Tate 



The Management Area of Cherokee 
National Forest, interested in fish, 
Has mapped Tellico and Bald Rivers 
And North River, with the tributaries 
Brookshire Branch and Sugar Cove Creek: 
A fishy map for facile fishery. 

Now consider it: nicely drawn in two 
Colors, blue and red; blue for the hue 
Of Europe (Tennessee water is green), 
Red lines by blue streams to warn 
The fancy-fishmen from protected fish; 
Black borders hold the Area in a cracked dish. 

Other black lines, the dots and dashes, wire 
The fisher's will through classic laurel 
Over boar tracks to foamy pot-holes lying 
Under Bald falls that thump the buying 
Trout: we sold Professor, Brown Hackle, Worms. 
Tom Bagley and I were dotted and dashed wills. 

Up Green Cove Gap from Preacher Millsaps' cabin 
We walked an hour confident of victory, 
Went to the west down a trail that led us 
To Bald River — here map and scene were one 
In scene-identity. Eight trout is the story 
In three miles. We came to a rock bridge 

On which the road went left around a hill, 

The river, right, tumbled into a cove; 

But the map dashed the road along the stream 

And we dotted man's fishiest enthymeme 

With jellied feet upon deductive love 

Of what eyes see not, that nourishes the will : 



166 



The Trout Map 167 

We were fishers, weren't we? And tried to fish 

The egoed belly's dry cartograph — 

Which made the government fish lie down and laugh; 

Tommy and I listened, we heard them shake 

Mountains and cove because the map was fake. 

After eighteen miles our feet were clownish; 

Then darkness took us into wheezing straits 
Where coarse Magellan, idling with his fates, 
Ran with the gulls for map around the Horn, 
Or wheresoever the mind with tidy scorn 
Revisits the world to hear an eagle scream 
Vertigo! Mapless, the mountains were a dream. 




A Partnership With Death 

Vardis Fisher 



EUNICE looked at me across the table and said: "I've a corking 
idea for a novel. I'd like to know what you think of it." 

The three of us were sitting in a small club, drinking bad Saratoga 
cocktails. They contained too much bitters and poor vermouth. I 
emptied my glass and said : "All right, let's have it." 

"It's not at all like anything I've ever done," she said. 

Eunice Ward was a novelist, but unlike many women who write 
books she was not masculine in her habits and tastes. She was small 
and dark and shapely; and it had always seemed to me a bit incon- 
gruous that such a petite woman should write such huge tomes. None 
of her novels, of which there had been a half-dozen, ran under six 
hundred pages, and they were big gawky amorphous things like the 
works of Dreiser. You would expect a small and shy and introverted 
person like Eunice to write books no bigger than Robert Nathan's. 
She didn't weigh a hundred pounds, and everything about her, in- 
cluding her gestures, was delicate. 

"Tell him," her husband said. "I've heard this story a thousand 
times, but I guess I can stand it again." 

Paul Ward was a professor of economics on a famous Eastern campus. 
He was a big Viking of a man with fierce blue eyes and a way of 
snorting as if to blow obstacles out of his path. In all respects he was 
unlike his wife. Paul was lusty and lean and broad, and as extroverted 
as they come. Psychology, I had learned long ago, he held in withering 
contempt. 

"Well," said Eunice, opening wide her dark eyes and looking as if 
the story slightly terrified her, "it's strange but it's true. I mean it 
really happened. I knew the woman. I still know her — but perhaps 
not so well as Paul does." She looked at Paul when she said that and 
I thought her eyes accused him. 

168 



A Partnership With Death 169 

"You mean she's still alive." 

"Her kind never dies," said Paul. "It's the husbands who die. Out 
in Idaho don't you have a Lady Bluebeard?" 

"Oh, yes, indeed — and a very notorious one." 

"How many husbands did she kill?" 

"She was convicted for only one murder, I think, but it's generally 
assumed that she laid away a half-dozen or so." 

"Why drag in that case?" Eunice asked Paul. "This woman did 
not kill her husbands. They just died." 

"How many?" 

"Four." 

"Four husbands died on her ? It sounds as if you have a story there." 

"It's a wonderful story." 

I realized at once that it had taken hold of her. Authors write most 
of their stones as a job, but now and then they fall upon one that they 
must write because they cannot forget it or because in some way it 
seems to offer an interpretation of themselves. 

"This woman," said Eunice gravely, "is a good woman." 

"She just had bad luck," said Paul dryly. 

"She's a good woman," said Eunice. "She's sweet and generous and 
kind — just the sort who should have babies and make a home." 

"Didn't she have any babies?" 

"No, she couldn't." 

"Did she blame the husbands ? Women often do." 

"Sometimes the husbands are to blame. There are sterile men, you 
know." 

"Yes, of course. But four in a row, do you think?" 

"Hardly. This woman was the sterile one in this case." 

"I didn't mean to interrupt," I said. "Go on with the story." 

"Well, the woman has married again. When I learned she had 
married the fifth time I began to think about her and wonder how 
she felt. That— that's the story." 

"I don't believe it," said Paul. "This one will die and she'll marry 
a sixth one." Paul looked around him and I saw his gaze dwelling 
on a very luscious blonde. 

"How old is this woman now?" 

"About forty. She was young when she married the first time — 
only fifteen, I think." 

"Does that have anything to do with the case?" 



170 Vardis Fisher 

"Eunice insists she's a good woman," said Paul. "She loves good 
women. If this one lost four husbands in twenty-five years, that's not 
so bad as four in twenty years." 

To me the case seemed a little ridiculous. "How many years of 
marriage were allotted to each?" Eunice's glance rebuked me. "You 
have here," I went on hastily, "a psychological story. It's an almost 
incredible story to begin with. Now if each husband had about the 
same number of years — " 

"As a matter of fact, they did." 

"Then that makes it all the more incredible. You mean each had 
about five or six years? How long a time passed after the death of 
each before she married again?" 

"Not long," said Paul. "She was always on the job." 

"Never mind that," said Eunice impatiently. "I'm interested in how 
she feels now. What is her attitude toward her fifth husband going 
to be? It seems to me that is the heart of the story." 

"That's right. Well, you do have a story there." 

"It is all laid out for me up to the fifth marriage. From there on 
out I'm on my own. The meat of the story is what happens in the 
fifth marriage." 

"Or the tenth," said Paul, and emptied his drink. 

"It has swell possibilities. I'd like to know what the fifth husband 
thinks." 

"Yes," said Paul. "What does that poor bastard feel? I'd say it's 
his story." 

"It could be," Eunice admitted. "Should it be his story or her story ?" 

"Doesn't that depend on the two persons? Which is the more im- 
portant, the more sensitive? Let's have more about this woman and 
this husband. How old is he?" 

"In his forties." 

"Then she's not the kind who marries men younger than herself." 

"One of them was. He just happened to be." 

"Is this fifth husband intelligent?" 

"He's a lot like Paul," said Eunice. 

"Draw your own conclusion," said Paul. In a very obvious way he 
was interested in a young blonde standing at the bar. 

"Tell me about the woman first. She must be attractive." 



A Partnership With Death 171 

"In a way. She's the warm and motherly sort that a lot of men go 
for. She's a little stout now but not unattractively so. She's very 
healthy and has a very fair skin." 

"How intelligent?" 

"Average. She's a high-school graduate." 

"Are you sure she didn't poison these four men?" 

Eunice's black eyes flashed. "Of course not. And for the purpose 
of my book she certainly did not." 

I turned to Paul. "How well do you know this woman?" 

"I've seen her a lot of times." 

"You think—" 

"Oh, hell, no. There's no murder in the case." 

"Well," I said, "let's have another drink and proceed." We had 
another round, and a second and a third, and I could see the effect of 
them in Paul's eyes; but there was no change in Eunice except that 
she talked a little more freely. She sketched in the background. This 
much-married woman — whom we shall call Jane — appeared to be a 
very average and lovable sort that men liked and trusted. Her four 
husbands had been average men. One of them had been killed in an 
automobile accident. One had died of cancer of the liver, and one of 
a bad heart weakened by childhood rheumatism. Eunice did not know 
what the fourth had died of, but it was some common ailment. 

"The one younger than Jane," I asked curiously, "what did he 
die of?" 

"He was killed," said Paul. "He was drunk." 

"Was his wife with him?" 

"No." 

"Well, I guess I'll have to assume that the woman didn't murder 
any of them. In writing this story are you going to tell about her life 
with the first four?" 

"Just sketch it in. That's not important." 

"It might be. Four husbands ought to make something interesting 
of any woman. Which one did she love most and why?" 

"She loves all men," said Paul. "She's that kind." 

"The story," said Eunice a little impatiently, "is about the fifth 
marriage." 

"That's right," Paul said. "What happens to the poor bastard ? Does 
he die too?" 



172 Vardis Fisher 

"Docs he die too?" asked Eunice, looking at me. "Won't Jane 
expect him to die?" 

"Oh, not at once. He should have five or six years." 

"But as the end of that time approaches, how will Jane feel ? Won't 
she be afraid she will lose him?" 

"You see," said Paul wearily, "Eunice must find some significance 
in this. She's not content to let people marry and die. To die or not 
to die, that's the point." 

"I begin to feel a lot of sympathy for the fifth husband. What's his 

3" 

name r 

"Osberg," said Paul. "He's a Dane." 

"Suppose you let Osberg live to be ninety," I said to Eunice. "Would 
that spoil your story?" 

"That's one kind of story. Is that the biggest story?" 

"You see!" cried Paul triumphantly. "She doesn't mind killing 
Osberg to get a big story." 

Eunice shrugged. Her husband didn't take her career very seri- 
ously. I've never known any husband of a woman author who did 
not seem to be on the defensive against her. 

"You have written psychological novels," Eunice said to me. "How 
would you work this story out?" 

"Do you want me to be serious?" 

"If you can be." There was somber mirth in her dark eyes when 
she added: "Don't let the wanton slaughter of husbands outrage your 
ego. The story is the thing. One of the great Russians should have 
done it — or a Frenchman." 

"Well, this woman Jane is healthy, attractive, womanly, and child- 
less. Has she had any lovers during her married life ?" The response 
to the question startled me. Paul kicked me under the table. 

"I couldn't imagine it," said Eunice tartly. "Four — " 

"But she is barren," I said, avoiding Paul's eyes. "There's a prob- 
lem in psychology — especially with women of average intelligence. 
I've known such women. They're pretty easy with their favors. It's 
not because they are wanton. The frustrated maternal hunger in them 
turns to the grown-up boys. Furthermore, you admit that Jane is 
healthy and vivid and that men go for her." 

"Even if she had lovers, what does that have to do with it?" 

Paul kicked me again under the table. Had he been one of Jane's 
lovers? I knew the big handsome cuss was death on women — and 



A Partnership With Death 173 

especially giddy women who measure men in the breadth of their 
shoulders and the line of their jaw. 

"You're going to make this the woman's story, aren't you ? Now if 
she was naturally the easy sort when young, her terrible mortality in 
husbands would make her all the more approachable, wouldn't it?" 

"It might work the other way." 

"Maybe, with a woman like you." 

I intended that remark to be innocent, but I thought I saw Eunice 
catch her breath. She looked at me, and in her black eyes there was, 
at least for an instant, the naked meaning of her if I had had the power 
to read it. Paul turned away and was looking at a couple dancing. I 
ordered another round of drinks. 

"Well, let's skip the erotic life." An idea came to me. "Let's dance," 
I said. 

Eunice was an excellent dancer but a little stiff. I suppose most 
women are who write books — and most men too. While we danced 
I had intended to talk to her, free of Paul's caustic interruptions and 
kicks under the table; but almost at once I observed that she was 
watching her husband. He did not know it, and probably would not 
have cared if he had known. Several couples were dancing, and I 
became aware of Eunice's intent gaze on her husband when she began 
to lead me. I became curious about her motive, and I observed next 
that Paul was staring, in the bold and unashamed way of extroverts, 
at the blonde. Then I understood that Eunice was maneuvering the 
dance so that she could watch her husband. 

"About this story," I said, looking down across her dark lashes and 
noting the direction of her gaze. "As I understand it, you want to 
write a novel about Jane's attitude toward her fifth husband. It could 
be a swell story. Does she mother him to death and constantly watch 
over him, or does she — " 

"What?" asked Eunice, looking up. 

"What else could she do?" 

"I don't know." 

"She might want him to die." At once I felt a change in her. She 
stiffened and raised a hand to do something with her hair. 

"Why did you say that?" she asked, and there was such passion in 
her voice that I was startled. 

"Well, she might. If you want a psychological story . . ." 



174 Vardis Fisher 

The music stopped and we returned to the table. Paul had gone 
over to the bar and was standing there with his back to us. He was a 
handsome figure of a man — two hundred pounds of firm meat and 
bone without a bit of fat on him. When I turned to Eunice I caught 
her looking at the blonde. 

"She probably would want him to die," I said. "The possibilities 
there are enormous. She has had four husbands who have died, and 
in consequence she has developed an attitude toward the men she 
marries. Not fatalism, you think? It could be that, but it could be 
something subtler. It could be — " 

"What ?" asked Eunice. She was again in superb control of herself. 
Her voice was casual and her eyes were an inscrutable black. 

"It could be a kind of subconscious and satanic artistry. After four, 
the woman has come to accept the death of her husband as inevitable. 
Death has become the fixed pattern of her life. She finds a part of 
her meaning in it, and the ways in which she finds that meaning make 
the story. I mean that she, so vitally alive, has entered a kind of 
strange partnership with death. Or don't you think so?" 

"I like to hear you talk," Eunice said calmly. "Go on." 

When the music started up, Paul headed straight for the blonde. A 
few moments later he was dancing with her. They were both good 
dancers and they made a handsome pair. 

"Shall we dance or talk about the story?" 

"I like to hear you talk." 

"I'm a little drunk," I said. "I'm afraid I'm not talking very well. 
Suppose we pursue that possibility. Jane, a good woman, could never 
consciously wish for the death of her husband. Could she? But sub- 
consciously she could plot it. Naturally, after a few years she would 
expect him to die because all the others had died; and if he didn't die 
she would be confused. I suppose that, having lost four husbands, she 
has become rather self-pitying and neurotic, hasn't she ? Life is cruel 
for her through no fault of her own. But she is a brave and self- 
sacrificing and uncomplaining woman. She has learned to feed on 
the tragic. That's the meaning of her life and she couldn't very well 
reconcile herself to a husband who threatened to outlive her. 

"I once knew a woman who lost all her babies. One after another 
died in infancy. After four or five— I don't remember how many— had 
died, the woman came to be regarded as a very tragic person. She 
thought of herself that way too and learned to thrive on misfortune. 



A Partnership With Death 175 

For her it was all a part of God's wise and inscrutable plan. She got 
a lot of attention and sympathy that she would have never got if her 
babies had lived. In fact, she reached the point where she fully ex- 
pected the next one to die, and spoke of its death as something immi- 
nent and inevitable. Even more than that. As soon as the infant was 
born she began to search it for signs of sickness; and right from the 
start she told the neighbors how ailing it was, and fondly dwelt on all 
the imaginary symptoms. 

"There's a story like the one you have in mind. This devout and 
superstitious woman never for a moment blamed herself or wondered 
about syphillis or anything else. Nor did her neighbors. It was God's 
doings and that's all there was to it. But persons try to turn even mis- 
fortune into an advantage and she did; and she became the best-known 
and most talked of woman in her county. 

"Now suppose her sixth child, say, had lived. Would the mother 
have had a nervous breakdown? I suspect she would have had. If 
all the grave attention of her neighbors had been suspended, what 
meaning would her life have had then? It would be like making a 
new start after emotional bankruptcy. She would no longer have been 
the one woman in the county singled out by God for a special and 
mysterious dispensation. If a child or two had lived and romped 
about in health, this woman might easily have gone insane. 

"Because, after all, Eunice, we are interested in attention and sym- 
pathy and in being set apart. We are so hungry for those things that 
some people contrive misfortune in order to get them. That's the 
psychology of the cripple who becomes the brave and cheerful person 
in his community; of the wife who gets the attention of her husband 
and doctors by becoming neurotically ill; of the tantrum child who 
throws himself on the floor. That's the psychology of a Hitler, be- 
deviled by feelings of physical and social inferiority, who sets out on 
mass murder to make the whole world pay attention to him. It's a 
terrible thing in human beings but it is there — in all of us. 

"It must be in this woman Jane. But how can she bring about the 
death of her husband in order to keep the role as the tragic wife ? Have 
you figured that out?" 

"No," said Eunice in a low voice. "I guess I hadn't thought of the 
story that way." 

Paul had finished the dance and returned to the bar and I went over 
to fetch him. When he sat at the table I said : 



176 Vardis Fisher 

"We have this novel doped out. We've decided that Jane cannot 
live happily unless her fifth husband dies; but she's a virtuous woman. 
She can't poison him or shoot him. She has to bring about his death 
in a way that will leave her conscience clear. How can she do it ? Is 
he a neurotic man?" 
"Hell, no," Paul said. 

"Then she can't drive him into chronic illness. Besides, a neurotic 
illness often hangs on to the snow-white years. Could there be an 
accident? Jane does tender and thoughtful things to preserve her 
husband, but all the while, unknown to her, they are calculated to 
finish him off. Could she make some change in the house so he would 
fall and break his neck?" 

"I'm afraid," said Paul, "she is going to have a hell of a time getting 
rid of him." 

I looked at Eunice. She was watching me closely, but she did not 
speak. 

"I have it," I said. "Jane is a patriotic woman. We're at war. She 
persuades her husband to enlist." 

"A lot of soldiers will come back," Paul said. 

"Well, we'll put him in the most dangerous service — in aviation, of 
course. The chances are against him there." 

"We must be sure to kill him," Paul said. "If we don't, Eunice will 
have to rewrite her damned story." 

I became aware that Eunice was upset. She rose abruptly and asked 
me to dance; and when we were on the floor, she said: 

"Did you have to say that?" 

"What?" 

"About aviation. Didn't you know that Paul has enlisted in aviation ?" 

"Lord, no! Really, has he ? In the combat part?" 

"Yes." 

I looked around for Paul. He was dancing again with the blonde. 
When Eunice looked up at me I saw tears in her eyes. 

"I tried to keep him from enlisting," she said. 

"Of course you did." 

"College teachers don't have to go. He was deferred." 

"Yes, of course." 

"When he insisted, I tried to get him to enter a noncombat division." 

"Of course you did," I said. Then suddenly a thought came to me 
and I dropped the subject. 




Arkansas 

Raymond Weeks 

THIS is not a story. It is not a history. It is a fact. One cannot 
say that Arkansas belonged to Alphonse Jaccard or that Al- 
phonse belonged to her. They belonged to each other. In all the 
annals of Jackson County there is no record of a more mutual affection 
or of a more mysterious end. A few of the oldest inhabitants still 
remember their close union, their constant companionship, their dis- 
appearance in a blaze of glory. 

It all began at the County Fair. The Martin hogs had won all the 
first prizes except one, while the Jaccard hogs had received only 
seconds. Tom Martin began all the trouble. As he stood looking at his 
blue-ribboned grunters he declared: 

"In the matter of pigs we can beat the world." 

Now, this was wrong of Tom. We ought to be modest in victory. 
Alphonse Jaccard spoke up: 

"Hum! anybody can raise fat hogs! As for speed and sense, your 
hogs ain't nowhere!" 

In judging this remark of Alphonse, you should bear in mind the 
long line of Jaccards and their glorious record: The walls of their 
parlor were hung with blue ribbons. Since the death of old Mr. 
Jaccard four years before, the eclipse of the family had begun. Not 
that no ambitious Jaccards were left; there were plenty of them— five 
sons and four daughters, all reared in veneration of the past. But 
victory avoided them. For three consecutive seasons the County Fair 
had left the Jaccards broken in spirit, baffled. They returned home in 
silence and hardly spoke all winter. They did not love one another 
less for their misfortunes— only, what use was there for words ? Would 
they bring back lost glory? So you will understand Alphonse; you 
will understand him and sympathize with him when he said: 

177 



178 Raymond Weeks 

"Hum! anybody can raise fat hogs! As for speed and sense, your 
hogs ain't nowhere!" 

Tom Martin answered insolently: 

"I'll run my pigs against yourn this minute or at the next fair!" 

And Alphonse Jaccard replied: 

"Next fair, so be it! A race of yearlings!" 

Thus was the gauntlet thrown down in the presence of bearded men 
and breathless women. 

Excitement spread throughout Linwood, throughout the county. 
Two days later, neighbors came to the Jaccard farm to talk with Al- 
phonse. They learned that he had gone, nor would the family say 
where. Tom Martin declared that Alphonse had left the country for 
good. But just wait, Tom! Wait and watch. Fate has something 
in store for you! One cannot forever trample upon the unfortunate. 

Now of course you wonder where Alphonse was. Where do you 
suppose? Five days after the close of the County Fair he was riding 
Bonny, his best saddle horse, through the valleys of Arkansas! That's 
speed for you! The valleys did not delay him long. His proud spirit 
was not looking for valleys, but pigs. He made for the mountains. 
Nothing stopped him, neither fine cooking nor beautiful maidens nor 
enchanting scenery. He rode with set features and indifferent eye. 

People marveled at this cold, handsome young man from the north 
country. His bearing, his horse and saddle, and the three hounds that 
accompanied him, bespoke the gentleman. Perhaps he was a fugitive 
from justice? Yes, that must be it! Brave men admired him, soft-eyed 
women sighed when he had passed. The whole State of Arkansas was 
his for the asking. But it was not the State of Arkansas that Alphonse 
wanted ! 

Among the cone-like small mountains of Arkansas live, as you of 
course know, the famous wild pigs of America. These noble beasts 
formerly possessed the entire northern continent. They held their own 
against the Indians, but the Pale Faces, with their cruel and treacherous 
firearms, forced them slowly into the mountain fastness of Arkansas. 
The pigs would never have yielded in fair fight, but their generous 
nature hates treachery and cowardice. They retired, therefore, more 
through contempt than fear. 

Travelers and scientists who want to study the pig under conditions 
approaching, though not equaling, his former splendor, are accustomed 
to go to Arkansas. There they see him master of a wild and beautiful 



Arkansas 1'9 

domain, all of whose peaks and valleys, rivers and lakes, caverns, 
forests, paths, thickets and lairs are as familiar to him as your pockets 
are to you. In his architecture he differs notably from the degenerate 
brutes called pigs which have been imported from Europe. He is long, 
thin, wiry, made of bones, nerves and muscles. He can run so fast as to 
make a dog seem a turtle. Accordingly, if he runs from dogs, as he 
sometimes does, it is purely out of love of running. At any moment 
he can turn around and shake any dog into thistledown. His sense of 
hearing is as remarkable as his sense of sight. His intelligence is as 
great as his beauty. In short, he is a pig that is a pig! 

It will never be known how Alphonse managed to capture a sucking 
pig of this illustrious stock. That he did so and escaped alive is proof 
that he was a hero. He always refused to tell how he did it. We can 
only imagine his seizure of the tiny treasure, its squeals, his mad flight 
to where his horse waited, the pursuit through the mountain fastnesses 
of two hundred indignant and infuriated relatives of the victim, their 
cries and grunts and oaths and snorts and jibberings, the labored 
breathing of the horse fleeing from death and horror! No other man 
ever accomplished such a feat. The bones of many who tried it are 
preserved as trophies by the pigs of Arkansas. 

No sow ever cared for her baby with greater tenderness than Al- 
phonse for his little prisoner. He carried it at first in his bosom, later 
on a soft bed of cotton in a sack which he hung from his neck. He 
stopped at every cabin and house to give it warm milk, and taught it 
to drink from a bottle. He petted it and talked to it for hours as he 
rode. The little thing wept for days and called for its mama. At last, 
however, it began to nestle close to his body, especially at nightfall. 
Alphonse sang it to sleep with old French songs which he had learned 
from his mother. 

What saved the life of the captured baby was not so much the care 
which it received as the affection back of that care, for Alphonse, when 
he had definitely escaped from his pursuers and had been able to look 
at and to fondle his captive, felt that ic was the most intelligent and 
lovable little creature in the world. Accordingly, he loved it with what 
proved to be the passion of his life. They both longed for sympathy 
and love. They were made for each other. 

Not until he had crossed the frontier into Missouri did Alphonse 
feel safe from pursuit and arrest at the hands of the Governor of 
Arkansas. What a relief to reach his native state, to be able to caress 



180 Raymond Weeks 

and look freely at the baby pig! He took it out from its sack, petted 
its curly brown hair, its silky ears, pressed it against his cheek and neck. 
He noted in detail its beauty, looked into its deep, intelligent eyes and, 
transported out of himself, he felt that only one name would fit the 
lovely creature: He named her Arkansas! 

There was a memorable scene one night at the Jaccard house. The 
family had just finished supper when the beat of hoofs was heard 
coming rapidly. They all rushed to the door with one name on their 
lips. Alphonse arrived, tossed the rein to the hired man, got down 
from the saddle with care, holding something in his arms, caressed 
an instant with one hand the face of his faithful Bonny, and hurried 
into the house. He embraced all the family, motioned to have the door 
and window blinds closed, then drew tenderly from the sack the mite 
of a piglet and exclaimed in French: 

"This is Miss Arkansas! Long life to her!" 

He sat down and held her in his arms. The family crowded around. 
For a few moments Arkansas lay there blinking at the light and the 
strange faces; then she closed her eyes and tried to bury herself in 
Alphonse's bosom. He pressed her to his neck and cheek, humming 
the low song that she knew best. She did not squeal, as vulgar pigs do, 
but uttered a sweet little plaint, interrupted by tiny sobs, while a tear 
rolled from each eye. She was thinking of her mama, her brothers and 
sisters, and brave family in the Far Country. 

Needless to say, Arkansas slept that night and for many weeks in 
a snug box, close by Alphonse's bed. He gave her warm milk and 
tended her like a sick infant. If any one had suggested fixing a place 
for her in one of the stables, Alphonse would have said to him: "Go 
there yourself!" 

I will not delay you with a long account of Arkansas' education, 
although the subject would prove of interest to pedagogues. Let it 
suffice to give a few details. At the age of less than three weeks, she 
knew how to eat from a bowl without putting her feet in it. She had 
inherited all of the native neatness of the pigs of Arkansas. Her feet 
and skin she kept immaculate, which added to her beauty, for she had 
a lovely clear pink complexion. By the time she was a month old, she 
understood French perfectly and could already speak several words, 
such as: "Hein?", which means: "Excuse me. Sir [or Madam], what 
did you say?" Or: "Allons!", which means: "If you have no ob- 
jection, Sir [or Madam], let us start." Could you have done as well 



Arkansas 181 

at the age of one month ? She also knew how to distinguish from the 
sound of the horn the different meals— breakfast, dinner, supper. 
While not expansive toward visitors, she received them with courtesy 
and was equally polite to all. She soon began to pick up English and 
in time understood it quite well, though she naturally preferred French 
and her own language. 

From the first, Arkansas was a prime favorite. The dogs idolized 
her. They used to run to her and kiss her good morning. They played 
hide-and-seek and tag with her. It was a delight to watch these games. 
She enjoyed almost equal popularity with the cats, chickens, ducks, 
geese, horses, cows, and mules. They all regarded her as a princess. 

But Arkansas' great favorite, her sunlight and her comfort, was, and 
remained, Alphonse! She worshipped him. She followed him all over 
the farm, keeping close behind him and talking to him almost con- 
tinuously. Before she was two months old, he had taught her to start 
running at a signal and to return at another. Her progress was rapid. 

There was on the farm only one animal with which Arkansas re- 
fused to have anything to do, and that was the pigs. She despised and 
hated them as coarse, swollen, dirty, loathsome, degenerate caricatures 
of a noble race. She never went into their lot nor paid any attention to 
them, although they often spoke to her through the fence. 

Winter passed, spring, midsummer. September arrived, the month 
of the great trial! The heart of Jackson County almost ceased to beat, 
so intense was the excitement. There were more than thirty pigs 
entered for the speed contest. Large wagers were put up, with the 
odds favoring Arkansas, partly because of her family descent and 
romantic history, partly because no one was more respected and be- 
loved than the handsome, silent young man of twenty-five, who was 
her master, Alphonse Jaccard, whose name stood as a synonym for 
honesty, generosity and loyalty. 

It had been the happiest year of Alphonse's life. For the last week 
before the great event, he had slept in the open air near Arkansas' 
little house. He feared trouble. Then, too, the moon was approaching 
full, and he had noticed that at such times Arkansas seemed to be 
melancholy, that she remembered then more than at other times the 
Far Country where her family waited for her. She did not conceal her 
longing from him. On the contrary, she used to lean against his leg 
with a soft pressure when they stood watching the full moon rise at 
bedtime, and she used to say, looking off to the Southland with her 



132 Raymond Weeks 

nose in the air: "Ah! Ah!", which was her pronunciation of Arkansas, 
the Far Country. 

The day for the great race arrived. All of the beauty and chivalry 
of the county were gathered there, as well as everybody else. The 
farms were entirely deserted. One of the Jaccard boys had ridden 
Bonny over to the fair early in the day, to be sure that all arrangements 
had been made. Alphonse came in a big wagon with the rest of the 
family, including Arkansas, to whom he had carefully explained what 
was to take place. They planned so as to arrive only a few minutes 
before the race; whereas most of Arkansas' rivals had been there for 
days, the judges having granted permission for all entries to become 
acquainted with the track at times when it was not in use. 

The great race was to be the final event of the afternoon. An im- 
mense throng was present, fully two thousand persons. The grandstand 
was packed with sturdy farmers, their red-faced wives, rosy-cheeked 
daughters, and brown-cheeked boys. Hundreds sat and stood in 
wagons or perched on the branches of trees. There was no breeze. The 
dust of previous races hung in a soft haze over the landscape. The 
squealing and grunting of the entries for the race could be heard, 
mingled with loud exclamations and tender cajolings of their masters 
and seconds. 

Emotion rose to the breaking point half an hour before the race. 
Where was Alphonse? Where was Arkansas? The question passed 
from lip to lip. As for the Martins, they were there in force. Tom 
looked pale, as was inevitable when the reputation and the glory of 
the family were at stake. His father, the Major, his mother, and his 
sister, Bessie, tried to remain calm, but showed their nervousness. 

At last the Jaccards and Arkansas arrived. The rumor spread like 
lightning: "They have come!" The families of the other entries turned 
pale. Finally, from the judges' stand came the signal: "Get ready, 
gentlemen!" 

Then followed the loudest clamor of squeals and grunts that has 
ever been heard at a racecourse. The owners and attendants dragged, 
pulled, pushed, and drove to the track the more than thirty entries, and 
one is forced to admit that they— I mean the entries— were a hand- 
some lot of porkers. Each one had a number tied about his neck and 
a rope to a hind foot. The rope was to be detached at the last moment, 
when the chief judge should cry: "One! Two! Three! Go!!!" The mob 



Arkansas 183 

of the entries crowded to the inside of the track to get the advantage. 
Where so much is at stake, no precaution should be neglected. 

A murmur of admiration burst from the immense throng when 
Alphonse and Arkansas appeared, walking side by side, she being un- 
attached by any vile and dishonoring rope. They walked slowly, con- 
versing as quietly as if on their farm. He was calling her his treasure, 
his delight, his darling, his Arkansas, and she looked up at him out 
of her black eyes and said: "Have no fear, Alphonse!" 

She paid not the least attention to the grunting, squealing horde of 
her rivals, but one could see that her nose curled in contempt. 

It is now necessary to mention one thing about Arkansas which I 
have intentionally deferred. I have more than once spoken of her 
beauty, which was of the purest type, but I have not stated that her two 
left legs were slightly shorter than their right mates. This was due to 
one of the peculiar habits of the Arkansas pigs. Allow me to explain. 

For centuries these pigs, whose social life is most complex, have 
recognized the principle of private ownership of property. Each 
family or clan owns a hill or mountain, where its members pass then- 
time. A member of another clan is forbidden to walk or forage on that 
mountain, unless by special invitation. Furthermore, the mountains 
are cone-shaped. But this is not all : The families or clans always walk 
or run around their mountain in the same direction. The result of this 
is that all Arkansas pigs, without exception, have their legs shorter on 
one side than on the other. Time is lacking to enlarge on this well- 
known fact, whose origins lie concealed behind the mists of antiquity. 
All Arkansas pigs are either lefters or righters, and naturally run on 
a curve. Any pig can run straight! 

Now, Alphonse, with his keen intelligence, saw the bearing of this 
fact. He accordingly stole his prize from among the lefters: Arkansas 
was a lefter. You will readily see the immense advantage which her 
form of architecture gave her on a racecourse where the contestants 
had the judges, and consequently the inside of the track, on their left 
hand. 

The fated moment arrived. The chief judge, Col. Milt McGee, 
proud of his role, called in a tremendous voice: "Are you ready? One! 
Two! Three! Go!!!" Oh! my friends, what a race was there! The 
squealing, squirming mob was off, launched by violent kicks. The 
crowd arose en masse. Their shouts shook the hills and would have 
been heard clear to the Missouri River, if there had been any one there 



134 Raymond Weeks 

to hear them. Against a background of unsurpassed beauty a great 
historical event was taking place. The spectators knew this. They also 
knew that they were present looking at it and that they knew that 
they were looking at it. Accordingly, their excitement and enthusiasm 
swept silence off the earth! 

As I have said, the contestants had started in the mad race. Each one 
had been told to do or die. The people looked down on a surging 
mass of rumps, tails, and flopping ears. Never since the time of the 
Greeks had so much vying ambition torn along a racecourse. Never 
had contestants talked so much to one another as they ran, so intense 
was their excitement. 

But, you ask, what of Arkansas? She and her master had taken 
their place on the outer side, in the most unfavorable position. At the 
moment of starting, Alphonse, who was bending over Arkansas, said 
in her ear: "Go, little treasure! Go, little angel!" And she went! She 
was built for it! Being constructed to run on a curve, she fitted the race 
track, and being thin— an enemy might have said too thin— her flight 
through the air caused almost no friction. She did not appear to be 
running; she seemed to glide through the air, close to the earth but not 
touching it and not of it. The Martins, where were they? And the 
other entries ? They seemed to be standing still, or even running back- 
ward, when Arkansas passed them. As she swept by the grandstand on 
the first lap, not one of her rivals had even come into sight at the bend 
of the track! It was only when she passed right in front of you like a 
cannon ball that you could catch a glimse of little back hoofs walking 
on the air. She passed as a flash from a mirror would pass, yet she kept 
her bearings, and, as she swept by an island of French where Alphonse 
and the family stood, they thought they saw her wink at them! 

Oh! the love of a pig! the unequaled, the magnificent Arkansas! 

She ran faster and faster. When she passed by on the third and sup- 
posedly last lap she was going so rapidly that the judges' hats blew off. 
She knew that the race was won, but she saw in front of her the vile 
mob of her rivals who were almost an entire lap behind. She gave a 
little flirt of her hindquarters, just to signal to the judges that she knew 
what she was doing, and tore on around the dizzy track for a fourth 
time. She finished the extra lap amidst a frenzied scene of enthusiasm 
that shook the earth. With cries of "Arkansas! Arkansas!" the vast 
crowd surged over the track. But she did not hear their cries. She 



Arkansas 185 

was in the arms of Alphonse, who was weeping like an infant. Ah! 
Alphonse! why did you not die that moment? 

At last the judges, led by Col. McGee, forced their way to where 
Arkansas and the family stood. The Colonel himself wound her 
glorious neck with streamers of blue ribbon, while another judge tied 
a tuft to her tail. She received with becoming modesty these badges 
of victory. They all noticed that she was not breathing faster than in 
repose, and that she had not turned a hair. The judges also decked with 
blue ribbons the broad straw hat of Alphonse, the lapel of his coat, 
his happy mother and sisters, and even the saddle of Bonny. 

The great sun went down through the golden dust and the crowd 
finally began to disperse. Arkansas and Alphonse had left the race 
track. She had leaped into the wagon unaided. Alphonse had followed 
and sat down by her. At that moment she beheld, pale and ghostly 
through the haze, the full orb of the rising moon. She was seen to 
whisper something into Alphonse's ear, to give him a single, tender 
glance, then to jump from the wagon and start ofT, running toward the 
west. Alphonse turned deathly pale. He had not only heard what she 
had whispered, he knew her— he knew her from the life lines on her 
hoofs to the hair on her back. With a mere wave of farewell to his 
mother, he leaped out of the wagon, unhitched Bonny, mounted her 
like a flash, and was gone! The assembled thousands stood spellbound. 
They saw Arkansas running rapidly, her blue trophies fluttering in the 
air. She turned her head at times to see if Alphonse was following. 
Indeed he was! Never had Bonny run as then, except perhaps the 
night when they stole the baby pig. The throng watched them breath- 
lessly, until at the crest of a hill they saw faintly a last flutter of the 
blue ribbon on Alphonse's hat; then they broke as one man, rushed 
to the swift saddle horses, and made off in a mad pursuit of Alphonse 
and Arkansas. 

Ride hard, brave men and courageous bop! Gallop, horses! Cut 
into tatters the prairies and the fields! You do not know that the 
flutter of blue over the hill was the last you are ever to see of the un- 
fortunate Alphonse Jaccard! . . . 

There are those who will tell you, my listeners, that this whole affair 
is only a dream— that it never happened. They were not present. Do 
not believe them! 

For months tales drifted in from the Indians and traders to the west 
and southwest of us— tales of a phantom pig and a spectre horseman, 



186 Alan Swallow 

of their furious course, of beseeching cries, songs and whistlings heard 
in the night. Piously and with sinking hearts we pieced together these 
rumors. Alas! there could be no doubt! Arkansas, running true to 
her architecture, had described a vast curve, which turned gradually 
toward the south, with all the inevitability of mathematics! Finally, 
an Indian brought in the hat of Alphonse, still decked, O pathos! with 
a piece of blue ribbon. He had found it in the direction of the Verdigris 
River, two hundred miles away! Then the most stupid among us 
understood. Arkansas had transcribed her inherited curve across the 
limitless prairies and desolate plains of Kansas Territory, down through 
the corner of Indian Territory and into her native State of Arkansas, 
carrying in her wake her beloved master. 



CLOSING THE YEAR 

Alan Swallow 

South the sun shuddered, and turned, 

Making the close hounds bellow as they passed. 

There in the southland the skyway burned, 

And drouth stripped leaves from the tall, armed mast, 

Shaped to impale the closing year. 

The wide wound opened, bled, and it will heal: 

Rocks crumble, and the grasses sere 

Under the ruin of the aged and ageless wheel. 

Here in the northland seed has run 

Like snow among the hills, threaded like mice 

The stubble passageways, and lain 

Like living beetle in momentary ice. 

What can be buried? Even the husk 
Rots, and then finds the vein: and over all 
Time spills incessant water, whose rush 
Leaves no locked island of decent burial. 




The Colt 

Wallace Stegner 

IT was the swift coming of spring that let things happen. It was 
spring, and the opening of the roads, that took his father out of 
town. It was spring that clogged the river with floodwater and ice 
pans, sent the dogs racing in wild aimless packs, ripped the railroad 
bridge out and scattered it down the river for exuberant townspeople 
to fish out piecemeal. It was spring that drove the whole town to the 
river bank with pike poles and coffeepots and boxes of sandwiches for 
an impromptu picnic, lifting their sober responsibilities out of them 
and making them whoop blessings on the C.P.R. for a winter's fire- 
wood. Nothing might have gone wrong except for the coming of 
spring. Some of the neighbors might have noticed and let them know; 
Bruce might not have forgotten; his mother might have remembered 
and sent him out again after dark. 

But the spring came, and the ice went out, and that night Bruce 
went to bed drunk and exhausted with excitement. In the restless 
sleep just before waking he dreamed of wolves and wild hunts, but 
when he awoke finally he realized that he had not been dreaming the 
noise. The window, wide open for the first time in months, let in a 
shivery draught of fresh, damp air, and he heard the faint yelping 
far down in the bend of the river. 

He dressed and went downstairs, crowding his bottom into the warm 
oven, not because he was cold but because it had been a ritual for so 
long that not even the sight of the sun outside could convince him it 
wasn't necessary. The dogs were still yapping; he heard them through 
the open door. 

"What's the matter with all the pooches ?" he said. "Where's Spot ?" 

"He's out with them," his mother said. "They've probably got a 
porcupine treed. Dogs go crazy in the spring." 

"It's dog days they go crazy." 

187 



188 Wallace Stegner 

"They go crazy in the spring, too." She hummed a little as she set 
the table. "You'd better go feed the horses. Breakfast won't be for 
ten minutes. And see if Daisy is all right." 

Bruce stood perfectly still in the middle of the kitchen. "Oh, my 
gosh!" he said. "I left Daisy picketed out all night!" 

His mother's head jerked around. "Where?" 

"Down in the bend." 

"Where those dogs are?" 

"Yes," he said, sick and afraid. "Maybe she's had her colt." 

"She shouldn't for two or three days," his mother said. But just 
looking at her he knew that it might be bad, that there was something 
to be afraid of. In another moment they were both out the door, both 
running. 

But it couldn't be Daisy they were barking at, he thought as he 
raced around Chance's barn. He'd picketed her higher up, not clear 
down in the U where the dogs were. His eyes swept the brown, wet, 
close-cropped meadow, the edge of the brush where the river ran close 
under the north bench. The mare wasn't there ! He opened his mouth 
and half turned, running, to shout at his mother coming behind him, 
and then sprinted for the deep curve of the bend. 

As soon as he rounded the little clump of brush that fringed the cut- 
bank behind Chance's he saw them. The mare stood planted, a bay 
spot against the grey brush, and in front of her, on the ground, was 
another smaller spot. Six or eight dogs were leaping around, barking, 
sitting. Even at that distance he recognized Spot and the Chapmans' 
airdale. 

He shouted and pumped on. At a gravelly patch he stooped and 
clawed and straightened, still running, with a handful of pebbles. In 
one pausing, straddling, aiming motion he let fly a rock at the distant 
pack. It fell far short, but they turned their heads, sat on their haunches 
and let out defiant short barks. Their tongues lolled as if they had 
run far. 

Bruce yelled and threw again, one eye on the dogs and the other on 
the chestnut colt in front of the mare's feet. The mare's ears were 
back, and as he ran, Bruce saw the colt's head bob up and down. It 
was all right then. The colt was alive. He slowed and came up 
quietly. Never move fast or speak loud around an animal, Pa said. 

The colt struggled again, raised its head with white eyeballs rolling, 
spraddled its white-stockinged legs and tried to stand. "Easy, boy," 



The Colt 189 

Bruce said. "Take it easy, old fella." His mother arrived, getting her 
breath, her hair half down, and he turned to her gleefully. "It's all 
right, Ma. They didn't hurt anything. Isn't he a beauty, Ma?" 

He stroked Daisy's nose. She was heaving, her ears pricking for- 
ward and back; her flanks were lathered, and she trembled. Patting 
her gently, he watched the colt, sitting now like a dog on its haunches, 
and his happiness that nothing had really been hurt bubbled out of 
him. "Lookit, Ma," he said. "He's got four white socks. Can I call 
him Socks, Ma ? He sure is a nice colt, isn't he ? Aren't you, Socks, old 
boy?" He reached down to touch the chestnut's forelock, and the colt 
struggled, pulling away. 

Then Bruce saw his mother's face. It was quiet, too quiet. She 
hadn't answered a word to all his jabber. Instead she knelt down, about 
ten feet from the squatting colt, and stared at it. The boy's eyes fol- 
lowed hers. There was something funny about. . . . 

"Ma!" he said. "What's the matter with its front feet?" 

He left Daisy's head and came around, staring. The colt's pasterns 
looked bent — were bent, so that they flattened clear to the ground under 
its weight. Frightened by Bruce's movement, the chestnut flopped and 
floundered to its feet, pressing close to its mother. As it walked, Bruce 
saw, flat on its fetlocks, its hooves sticking out in front like a movie 
comedian's too-large shoes. 

Bruce's mother pressed her lips together, shaking her head. She 
moved so gently that she got her hand on the colt's poll, and he bobbed 
against the pleasant scratching. "You poor broken-legged thing," she 
said with tears in her eyes. "You poor little friendly ruined thing!" 

Still quietly, she turned toward the dogs, and for the first time in 
his life Bruce heard her curse. Quietly, almost in a whisper, she cursed 
them as they sat with hanging tongues just out of reach. "God damn 
you," she said. "God damn your wild hearts, chasing a mother and a 
poor little colt." 

To Bruce, standing with trembling lip, she said, "Go get Jim Enich. 
Tell him to bring a wagon. And don't cry. It's not your fault." 

His mouth tightened; a sob jerked in his chest. He bit his lip and 
drew his face down tight to keep from crying, but his eyes filled and 
ran over. 

"It is too my fault!" he said, and turned and ran. 



190 Wallace Stegner 

Later, as they came in the wagon up along the cutbank, the colt tied 
down in the wagon box with his head sometimes lifting, sometimes 
bumping on the boards, the mare trotting after with chuckling vibra- 
tions of solicitude in her throat, Bruce leaned far over and tried to 
touch the colt's haunch. "Gee whiz!" he said. "Poor old Socks." 

His mother's arm was around him, keeping him from leaning over 
too far. He didn't watch where they were until he heard his mother 
say in surprise and relief, "Why, there's Pa!" 

Instantly he was terrified. He had forgotten and left Daisy staked 
out all night. It was his fault, the whole thing. He slid back into the 
seat and crouched between Enich and his mother, watching from that 
narrow space like a gopher from its hole. He saw the Ford against 
the barn and his father's big body leaning into it pulling out gunny 
sacks and straw. There was mud all over the car, mud on his father's 
pants. He crouched deeper into his crevice and watched his father's 
face while his mother was telling what had happened. 

Then Pa and Jim Enich lifted and slid the colt down to the ground, 
and Pa stooped to feel its fetlocks. His face was still, red from wind- 
burn, and his big square hands were muddy. After a long examination 
he straightened up. 

"Would've been a nice colt," he said. "Damn a pack of mangy 
mongrels, anyway." He brushed his pants and looked at Bruce's 
mother. "How come Daisy was out?" 

"I told Brucie to take her out. The barn seems so cramped for her, 
and I thought it would do her good to stretch her legs. And then the 
ice went out, and the bridge with it, and there was a lot of excite- 
ment. . . ." She spoke very fast, and in her voice Bruce heard the echo 
of his own fear and guilt. She was trying to protect him, but in his 
mind he knew he was to blame. 

"I didn't mean to leave her out, Pa," he said. His voice squeaked, and 
he swallowed. "I was going to bring her in before supper, only when 
the bridge. . . ." 

His father's somber eyes rested on him, and he stopped. But his 
father didn't fly into a rage. He just seemed tired. He looked at the 
colt and then at Enich. "Total loss?" he said. 

Enich had a leathery, withered face, with two deep creases from 
beside his nose to the corner of his mouth. A brown mole hid in the 
left one, and it emerged and disappeared as he chewed a dry grass 
stem. "Hide," he said. 



The Colt 191 

Bruce closed his dry mouth, swallowed. "Pa!" he said. "It won't 
have to be shot, will it?" 

"What else can you do with it?" his father said. "A crippled horse 
is no good. It's just plain mercy to shoot it." 

"Give it to me, Pa. I'll keep it lying down and heal it up." 

"Yeah," his father said, without sarcasm and without mirth. "You 
could keep it lying down about one hour." 

Bruce's mother came up next to him, as if the two of them were 
standing against the others. "Jim," she said quickly, "isn't there some 
kind of brace you could put on it? I remember my dad had a horse 
once that broke a leg below the knee, and he saved it that way." 

"Not much chance," Enich said. "Both legs, like that." He plucked 
a weed and stripped the dry branches from the stalk. "You can't make 
a horse understand he has to keep still." 

"But wouldn't it be worth trying?" she said. "Children's bones heal 
so fast, I should think a colt's would too." 

"I don't know. There's an outside chance, maybe." 

"Bo," she said to her husband, "why don't we try it ? It seems such 
a shame, a lovely colt like that." 

"I know it's a shame!" he said. "I don't like shooting colts any 
better than you do. But I never saw a broken-legged colt get well. 
It'd just be a lot of worry and trouble, and then you'd have to shoot 
it finally anyway." 

"Please," she said. She nodded at him slightly, and then the eyes 
of both were on Bruce. He felt the tears coming up again, and turned 
to grope for the colt's ears. It tried to struggle to its feet, and Enich 
put his foot on its neck. The mare chuckled anxiously. 

"How much this hobble brace kind of thing cost?" the father said 
finally. Bruce turned again, his mouth open with hope. 

"Two-three dollars, is all," Enich said. 

"You think it's got a chance?" 

"One in a thousand, maybe." 

"All right. Let's go see MacDonald." 

"Oh, good!" Bruce's mother said, and put her arm around him tight. 

"I don't know whether it's good or not," the father said. "We might 
wish we never did it." To Bruce he said, "It's your responsibility. You 
got to take complete care of it." 

"I will!" Bruce said. He took his hand out of his pocket and rubbed 
below his eye with his knuckles. "I'll take care of it every day." 



192 Wallace Stegner 

Big with contrition and shame and gratitude and the sudden sense 
of immense responsibility, he watched his father and Enich start for 
the house to get a tape measure. When they were thirty feet away he 
said loudly, "Thanks, Pa. Thanks an awful lot." 

His father half-turned, said something to Enich. Bruce stooped to 
stroke the colt, looked at his mother, started to laugh and felt it turn 
horribly into a sob. When he turned away so that his mother wouldn't 
notice he saw his dog Spot looking inquiringly around the corner of 
the barn. Spot took three or four tentative steps and paused, wagging 
his tail. Very slowly (never speak loud or move fast around an animal) 
the boy bent and found a good-sized stone. He straightened casually, 
brought his arm back, and threw with all his might. The rock caught 
Spot squarely in the ribs. He yiped, tucked his tail, and scuttled around 
the barn, and Bruce chased him, throwing clods and stones and gravel, 
yelling, "Get out! Go on, get out of here or I'll kick you apart. Get 
out! Go on!" 

So all that spring, while the world dried in the sun and the willows 
emerged from the floodwater and the mud left by the freshet hardened 
and caked among their roots, and the grass of the meadow greened 
and the river brush grew misty with tiny leaves and the dandelions 
spread yellow along the flats, Bruce tended his colt. While the other 
boys roamed the bench hills with .22s looking for gophers or rabbits 
or sage hens, he anxiously superintended the colt's nursing and watched 
it learn to nibble the grass. While his gang built a darkly secret hide- 
out in the deep brush beyond Hazards', he was currying and brushing 
and trimming the chestnut mane. When packs of boys ran hare and 
hounds through the town and around the river's slow bends, he perched 
on the front porch with his slingshot and a can full of small round 
stones, waiting for stray dogs to appear. He waged a holy war on the 
dogs until they learned to detour widely around his house, and he 
never did completely forgive his own dog, Spot. His whole life was 
wrapped up in the hobbled, leg-ironed chestnut colt with the slow- 
motion lunging walk and the affectionate nibbling lips. 

Every week or so Enich, who was now working out of town at the 
Half Diamond Bar, rode in and stopped. Always, with that expression- 
less quiet that was terrible to the boy, he stood and looked the colt 
over, bent to feel pastern and fetlock, stood back to watch the plunging 
walk when the boy held out a handful of grass. His expression said 



The Colt 193 

nothing; whatever he thought was hidden back of his leathery face as 
the dark mole was hidden in the crease beside his mouth. Bruce found 
himself watching that mole sometimes, as if revelation might lie there. 
But when he pressed Enich to tell him, when he said, "He's getting 
better, isn't he? He walks better, doesn't he, Mr. Enich? His ankles 
don't bend so much, do they?" the wrangler gave him little encour- 
agement. 

"Let him be a while. He's growin', sure enough. Maybe give him 
another month." 

May passed. The river was slow and clear again, and some of the 
boys were already swimming. School was almost over. And still 
Bruce paid attention to nothing but Socks. He willed so strongly that 
the colt should get well that he grew furious even at Daisy when she 
sometimes wouldn't let the colt suck as much as he wanted. He took 
a butcher knife and cut the long tender grass in the fence corners, 
where Socks could not reach, and fed it to his pet by the handful. He 
trained him to nuzzle for sugar-lumps in his pockets. And back in 
his mind was a fear: In the middle of June they would be going out 
to the homestead again, and if Socks weren't well by that time he 
might not be able to go. 

"Pa," he said, a week before they planned to leave. "How much of 
a load are we going to have, going out to the homestead?" 

"I don't know, wagonful, I suppose. Why?" 

"I just wondered." He ran his fingers in a walking motion along 
the round edge of the dining table, and strayed into the other room. 
If they had a wagonload, then there was no way Socks could be loaded 
in and taken along. And he couldn't walk thirty miles. He'd get left 
behind before they got up on the bench, hobbling along like the little 
crippled boy in the Pied Piper, and they'd look back and see him trying 
to run, trying to keep up. 

That picture was so painful that he cried over it in bed that night. 
But in the morning he dared to ask his father if they couldn't take 
Socks along to the farm. His father turned on him eyes as sober as 
Jim Enich's, and when he spoke it was with a kind of tired impatience. 
"How can he go? He couldn't walk it." 

"But I want him to go, Pa!" 

"Brucie," his mother said, "don't get your hopes up. You know 
we'd do it if we could, if it was possible." 

"But, Ma. . . ." 



194 Wallace Stegner 

His father said, "What you want us to do, haul a broken-legged colt 
thirty miles?" 

"He'd be well by the end of the summer, and he could walk back." 

"Look," his father said. "Why can't you make up your mind to it ? 
He isn't getting well. He isn't going to get well." 

"He is too getting well!" Bruce shouted. He half stood up at the 
table, and his father looked at his mother and shrugged. 

"Please, Bo," she said. 

"Well, he's got to make up his mind to it sometime," he said. 

Jim Enich's wagon pulled up on Saturday morning, and Bruce was 
out the door before his father could rise from his chair. "Hi, Mr. 
Enich," he said. 

"Hello, Bub. How's your pony?" 

"He's fine," Bruce said. "I think he's got a lot better since you saw 
him last." 

"Uh-huh." Enich wrapped the lines around the whipstock and 
climbed down. "Tell me you're leaving next week." 

"Yes," Bruce said. "Socks is in the back." 

When they got into the back yard Bruce's father was there with his 
hands behind his back, studying the colt as it hobbled around. He 
looked at Enich. "What do you think ?" he said. "The kid here thinks 
his colt can walk out to the homestead." 

"Uh-huh," Enich said. "Well, I wouldn't say that." He inspected 
the chestnut, scratched between his ears. Socks bobbed, and snuffed 
at his pockets. "Kid's made quite a pet of him." 

Bruce's father grunted. "That's just the damned trouble." 

"I didn't think he could walk out," Bruce said. "I thought we could 
take him in the wagon, and then he'd be well enough to walk back 
in the fall." 

"Uh," Enich said. "Let's take his braces off for a minute." 

He unbuckled the triple straps on each leg, pulled the braces off, and 
stood back. The colt stood almost as flat on his fetlocks as he had the 
morning he was born. Even Bruce, watching with his whole mind 
tight and apprehensive, could see that. Enich shook his head. 

"You see, Bruce?" his father said. "It's too bad, but he isn't getting 
better. You'll have to make up your mind. . . ." 

"He will get better though!" Bruce said. "It just takes a long time, 
is all." He looked at his father's face, at Enich's, and neither one had 
any hope in it. But when Bruce opened his mouth to say something 



The Colt 195 

else his father's eyebrows drew down in sudden, unaccountable anger, 
and his hand made an impatient sawing motion in the air. 

"We shouldn't have tried this in the first place," he said. "It just 
tangles everything up." He patted his coat pockets, felt in his vest. 
"Run in and get me a couple cigars." 
Bruce hesitated, his eyes on Enich. "Run!" his father said harshly. 
Reluctantly he released the colt's halter rope and started for the 
house. At the door he looked back, and his father and Enich were 
talking together, so low that their words didn't carry to where he stood. 
He saw his father shake his head, and Enich bend to pluck a grass 
stem. They were both against him; they both were sure Socks would 
never get well. Well, he would! There was some way. 

He found the cigars, came out, watched them both light up. Dis- 
appointment was a sickness in him, and mixed with the disappoint- 
ment was a question. When he could stand their silence no more, he 
burst out with it. "But what are we going to do? He's got to have 
some place to stay." 

"Look, kiddo." His father sat down on a sawhorse and took him 
by the arm. His face was serious and his voice gentle. "We can't 
take him out there. He isn't well enough to walk, and we can't haul 
him. So Jim here has offered to buy him. He'll give you three dollars 
for him, and when you come back, if you want, you might be able to 
buy him back. That is, if he's well. It'll be better to leave him with 
Jim." 

"Well . . ." Bruce studied the mole on Enich's cheek. "Can you get 
him better by fall, Mr. Enich?" 

"I wouldn't expect it," Enich said. "He ain't got much of a show." 

"If anybody can get him better, Jim can," his father said. "How's 
that deal sound to you?" 

"Maybe when I come back he'll be all off his braces and running 
around like a house afire," Bruce said. "Maybe next time I see him I 
can ride him." The mole disappeared as Enich tongued his cigar. 

"Well, all right then," Bruce said, bothered by their stony-eyed si- 
lence. "But I sure hate to leave you behind, Socks, old boy." 

"It's the best way all around," his father said. He talked fast, as 
if he were in a hurry. "Can you take him along now?" 

"Oh, gee!" Bruce said. "Today?" 

"Come on," his father said. "Let's get it over with." 



196 Wallace Stkgner 

Bruce stood by while they trussed the colt and hoisted him into the 
wagon box, and when Jim climbed in he cried out, "Hey, we forgot 
to put his hobbles back on." Jim and his father looked at each other. 
His father shrugged. "All right," he said, and started putting the 
braces back on the trussed front legs. "He might hurt himself if they 
weren't on," Bruce said. He leaned over the endgate, stroking the 
white blazed face, and as the wagon pulled away he stood with tears 
in his eyes and the three dollars in his hand, watching the terrified 
straining of the colt's neck, the bony head raised above the endgate 
and one white eye rolling. 

Five days later, in the sun-slanting dew-wet spring morning, they 
stood for the last time that summer on the front porch, the loaded 
wagon against the front fence. The father tossed the key in his hand 
and kicked the doorjamb. "Well, good-bye, Old Paint," he said. "See 
you in the fall." 

As they went to the wagon Bruce sang loudly, 

Good-bye, Old Paint, I'm leavin' Cheyenne, 
I'm leavin' Cheyenne, I'm goin' to Montana, 
Good-bye, Old Paint, I'm leavin' Cheyenne. 

"Turn it off," his father said. "You want to wake up the whole 
town?" He boosted Bruce into the back end, where he squirmed and 
wiggled his way neck-deep into the luggage. His mother, turning to 
see how he was settled, laughed at him. "You look like a baby owl in 
a nest," she said. 

His father turned and winked at him. "Open your mouth and I'll 
drop in a mouse." 

It was good to be leaving; the thought of the homestead was exciting. 
If he could have taken Socks along it would have been perfect, but he 
had to admit, looking around at the jammed wagon box, that there 
sure wasn't any room for him. He continued to sing softly as they 
rocked out into the road and turned east toward MacKenna's house, 
where they were leaving the keys. 

At the low, slough-like spot that had become the town's dump 
ground the road split, leaving the dump like an island in the middle. 
The boy sniffed at the old familiar smells of rust and tar paper and 
ashes and refuse. He had collected a lot of old iron and tea lead and 



The Colt 197 

bottles and broken machinery and clocks, and once a perfectly good 
amber-headed cane, in that old dump ground. His father turned up 
the right fork, and as they passed the central part of the dump the 
wind, coming in from the northeast, brought a rotten, unbearable 
stench across them. 

"Pee-you!" his mother said, and held her nose. Bruce echoed her. 
"Pee-you! Pee-you-willy!" He clamped his nose shut and pretended 
to fall dead. 

"Guess I better get to windward of that coming back," said his father. 

They woke MacKenna up and left the key and started back. The 
things they passed were very sharp and clear to the boy. He was seeing 
them for the last time all summer. He noticed things he had never 
noticed so clearly before: how the hills came down into the river from 
the north like three folds in a blanket, how the stovepipe on the China- 
man's shack east of town had a little conical hat on it. He chanted 
at the things he saw. "Good-bye, old Chinaman. Good-bye, old 
Frenchman River. Good-bye, old Dumpground, good-bye." 

"Hold your noses," his father said. He eased the wagon into the 
other fork around the dump. "Somebody sure dumped something 
rotten." 

He stared ahead, bending a little, and Bruce heard him swear. He 
slapped the reins on the team till they trotted. "What?" the mother 
said. Bruce, half rising to see what caused the speed, saw her lips go 
flat over her teeth, and a look on her face like the woman he had seen 
in the traveling dentist's chair, when the dentist dug a living nerve out 
of her tooth and then got down on his knees to hunt for it, and she 
sat there half raised in her seat, her face lifted. 

"For gosh sakes," he said. And then he saw. 

He screamed at them. "Ma, it's Socks! Stop, Pa! It's Socks!" 

His father drove grimly ahead, not turning, not speaking, and his 
mother shook her head without looking around. He screamed again, 
but neither of them turned. And when he dug down into the load, 
burrowing in and shaking with long smothered sobs, they still said 
nothing. 

So they left town, and as they wound up the dugway to the south 
bench there was not a word among them except his father's low, "For 
Christ sakes, I thought he was going to take it out of town." None 
of them looked back at the view they had always admired, the flat 
river bottom green with spring, its village snuggled in the loops of 



198 Robert Frost 

river. Bruce's eyes, pressed against the coats and blankets under him 
until his sight was a red haze, could still see through it the bloated, 
skinned body of the colt, the chestnut hair left a little way above the 
hooves, the iron braces still on the broken front legs. 



TRESPASS 

Robert Frost 

No, I had set no prohibiting sign; 
And yes, my land was hardly fenced. 
Nevertheless the land was mine. 
I was being trespassed on and against. 

Whoever the surly freedom took 
Of such an unaccountable stay 
Busying by my woods and brook 
Gave me a strangely restless day. 

He might be opening leaves of stone 
The picture book of the trilobite 
For which the region round was known 
And in which there was little property right. 

'Twas not the value I stood to lose 
In specimen crab in specimen rock, 
But his ignoring what was whose 
That made me look again at the clock. 

Then came his little acknowledgment. 
He asked for a drink at the kitchen door, 
An errand he may have had to invent 
But it made my property mine once more. 




They Set A Good Table 

Alberta Wilson Constant 



THE other day I read an article in a magazine. It was the kind 
of magazine that you find in the most expensive doctor's waiting 
room; so I know it was meant to be taken seriously. It was all about 
how to get your children to eat. It made me wonder. As I remember 
things back in Tennessee in the early teens of this century, the big 
worry was to keep the kids from eating. Was the food better then? 
Or does it just seem better across a vista of pale grey mashed potatoes 
served on the Vitamin Special? If the food was better, was it the in- 
gredients or the cooking? Or is the whole thing just a part of the 
golden days when Papa paid the grocery bills ? I wonder. 

I can remember, for instance, when breakfast was a meal and not 
just a hurdle on the way to the 7:49 bus. Fully dressed and ready to 
start the day, the whole family ate together in the dining room. Mama 
wore a lace breakfast cap, to be sure, but I have always suspected that 
it was to make her look pretty. 

My chair was right in front of the sideboard bulge; so I had to slide 
it in after the others got settled. Although the table was round when 
it came from the furniture store, it never reached that state again while 
we had it. Three leaves were standard equipment, and when we had 
company, which was most of the time, it took eight. 

When Mama got the high chair fixed — and that was standard too — 
Papa asked the blessing. It was short unless the Presiding Elder was 
there, because Papa said the Lord meant hot food to be eaten hot. I 
used to wonder what the words he said were. I tried to look one of 
them up in the school dictionary but I couldn't find it. Just before I got 
married I asked Papa what "netredities" were and why the Lord should 
bless them — if Webster didn't. After some figuring, it came out as 
"bless us in what 'we try to do'." Papa never asked the blessing with 
the same zip after that. 

199 



200 Alberta W. Constant 

We had fruit to begin with. Not orange juice. Orange juice came 
with castor oil. Grapefruit was daring and a little affected. We had 
blackberries or dewberries or strawberries. The berries were washed 
and sugared the night before and by morning there were tiny crusts 
of sugar crystals clinging around the edges of the top layer. With 
the fruit there was Jersey cream that flowed lazily out of the middle- 
sized blue willow pitcher. No matter how many times the berries had 
been washed, the last few spoonfuls of juice and cream would scrape 
against the bottom of the bowl with a suspicion of grit. I never minded 
it, though, and before I took my first bite I always mashed up four 
berries with my spoon so that the juice would be rich and flavorful. 

In full summer we had muskmelon. Mattie called them "mush 
melons" and it was a long time before I heard they were cantaloupes. 
The name doesn't matter. They came to the table in halves on the 
turkey platter and they were full of chipped ice. Real ice. Mama 
always had Mattie dust them with sugar before she put in the ice, but 
that was a secret from Papa. "Salt," he would say, waving the pink 
hand-painted salt shaker, "salt and pepper is all a muskmelon needs 
when I pick it out." And Mama said, "Yes, dear, you always pick 
good melons." Mama felt she had to explain that to us girls about 
twice a season. "What a man doesn't know doesn't hurt him. Re- 
member that when you have homes of your own. Besides, it makes the 
melons better." 

In the winter we might have prunes. That sounds boarding-housey, 
but Mattie stewed them way down with lemon juice and the rind of 
half a lemon as well as the sugar. That takes ofr the curse of bland- 
ness. The yellow cream that curled through the amber juice like the 
stripes in an agate helped, too. 

We all had oatmeal because Mama thought it was good for growing 
children. It was cooked all night in the fireless cooker. That was a 
contraption that stood at the end of the kitchen against the wall. It 
was dark and heavy like a seaman's chest and under the lid were two 
round deep holes that gave rise to a series of ribald jokes that wouldn't 
be funny to this generation. Into those holes went thick rounds of 
soapstone that had been heated through in the oven. On top of them 
went the two tall pans of oatmeal to simmer all night and come out 
steaming and full of goodness in the morning. In later years we ex- 
perimented with cornflakes, the kind that came in a red and yellow 
box with the picture of a girl sitting by a fireplace with a crane and 



They Set a Good Table 



201 



kettle and a cat on the floor. There was another box by the cat with 
the girl, fireplace, crane, kettle and cat, and then another box and on 
and on. The package was my first inkling of infinity. 

After cereal came the real breakfast. Pinky brown slices of cured 
ham that almost floated in red-eye gravy. And little crisp biscuits. 
Mama wouldn't put up with thick biscuits with a mattress in the 
middle. Our biscuits were made with sour milk and soda. For a long 
time Mama thought baking powder was unhealthful. I still think a 
good soda biscuit can beat a good baking powder biscuit all hollow. 
But it has to be good and no yellow spots. 

Right here I want to say a word about the biscuit pans. I think 
maybe they made a difference. They were thin black metal pans and 
we had them of all shapes and sizes and they were used for everything. 
They were the yeomen of our kitchen and of all the Tennessee kitchens 
I ever went into. 

Of course we had grits with the ham, and the gravy from the platter 
was spooned onto them. The little kids were allowed to put open 
biscuits into the platter to pick up the last of the dish gravy, but you 
couldn't do that after you were six years old. 

Ham wasn't always the real breakfast. Sometimes it was bacon with 
a mound of soft scrambled eggs. Lots of times it was liver or round 
steak. And in the dead of winter there would be country sausage, made 
of lean meat and seasoned with sage and red pepper. That pepper 
never saw a can. It would have melted a can. It was the ground-up 
pods of long-nosed red peppers, home-grown and dried, and it made 
all other sausage taste sissy. 

Mama and Papa had coffee but we had cocoa. It was made with 
cocoa from the box ornamented by the lady with the Grecian bend 
who stands at the foot of a colonial stairway holding out a steaming 
cup. She was one of my first standards of beauty and when I saw her 
the other day on a grocery-store shelf the permanence of her fixed smile 
made>me feel as warm as if I'd had a sip of cocoa. 

I guess that's about all we had for breakfast. Except the mackerel. 
About once every three weeks that would turn up. Salt mackerel came 
in a keg at Eskew's Grocery Store. It was soaked overnight and then 
broiled in butter and served with boiled potatoes. All of us detested it 
but Papa. If he knew how we felt he never let on. Mama would fix 
all of us with a look and say firmly, "Now here's your favorite break- 
fast, dear." After that we just muttered and chewed hard. I can see 



202 Alberta W. Constant 

that mackerel yet. Long shiny fish served with the head on. That 
made it look deader than ever. But there were compensations; likely as 
not Mama would have Mattie kill some fryers and the next day we'd 
have fried chicken for breakfast. 



Dinner was at twelve o'clock noon and everybody came home. The 
few dumpy little restaurants around the square might as well have 
closed up, too, except for a disconsolate drummer or two who hadn't 
been asked home for dinner. There was a noonday hush over the 
whole town. Probably over all Middle Tennessee. 

As long as my grandmother lived with us we had flowers on the 
table at noon. She could make a beautiful bouquet out of the unlike- 
liest things. Even in the wet dreary winter she found something. I 
loved to have salvia on the table so that I could pinch off a bloom and 
pull out the red tongue and get the drop of honey from the end of the 
delicate stamen. Nasturtiums were good, too. 

There was nearly always a new print of butter on the table. It was 
a pale, unchemical yellow and it had a molded butterfly on the top. 
Jelly and preserves were in twin cut-glass dishes that made rainbows 
on the white tablecloth when the sun struck them. There were cruets 
of vinegar and oil but they were hardly ever used. Down by Papa 
was the bottle of Tabasco sauce that he called "Little Man." He used 
it every day and I guess all of us tried it once but we never asked again. 

For just an ordinary day we might have round steak for dinner. It 
was cut thin and cooked through. Thick, rare steaks were no part of 
my experience. Round steak for our family of eight or nine or ten, 
depending on how many cousins were visiting, might cost as much as 
thirty cents. It had flour beaten into it with the edge of a cracked 
saucer and it had to be cooked right or it would get hard and dry. 
Mattie got the grease sizzling hot in the heavy iron skillets and then 
trailed the limp floury slabs into it. They hissed and smoked and be- 
gan to shrink up. When the meat was brown on both sides she put 
tops on the skillets and let it cook ten minutes or so. Then she took 
off the tops to let the meat crisp up. With the meat on a hot platter, 
Mattie next made the gravy. All the fried crackling bits that stuck to 
the bottom of the skillets floated up into the rich milk and flour, and 
the whole thing got an extra dousing of salt and pepper. It was cooked 
till it made a sulky plop, plop sound. 



They Set a Good Table 203 

The meat and gravy were put on the table in front of Papa. He 
carved with the speed and precision of the Brothers Mayo. He had 
to or he would never have got anything to eat himself. Mattie passed 
the vegetables once and then refilled the bowls and put them on the 
table for seconds and thirds. There would be mashed potatoes as 
background for the gravy. As long as summer lasted there would be 
black-eyed peas cooked with salt pork and a pod of red pepper. Okra, 
of course. And I mean just okra. Not some goshawful combination 
concocted to shame a noble vegetable. Little pods of okra cooked 
quickly in boiling salted water, served with butter, need nothing but 
an open mind and an open mouth. There was always a platter of 
sliced tomatoes in the summer. Big red slices, the color of Christmas. 
Mama liked to have chips of ice spread around on them and after 
dinner I loved to drink the icy water and tomato juice that stood in 
the platter. One of our cousins put sugar on his tomatoes, but he turned 
out badly. Everybody loved fried corn, but I haven't seen a dish for 
years. Corn cut and scraped from the cob, and fried in bacon drippings 
till a brown crust formed over the bottom of the pan. Cream and lots 
of salt and pepper were added, too. 

Usually we had cornbread for dinner. We called it eggbread and 
it was cooked in those same black pans, cut out in squares and passed 
around. Sometimes it would be corn sticks made in my great-grand- 
mother's iron pans. They were good and crusty but they didn't have 
the surface for gravy. 

Another dinner might be roast beef. We had pork only in the 
winter. In spring there would be new potatoes served in white sauce 
called "dots and gravy," and English peas with them. Chopped gar- 
den lettuce, wilted with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar, came along 
then and so did radishes and young spring onions piled in the cut- 
glass celery dish. Between every two places at the table was a heavy 
glass saltcellar about as big as a half dollar, and the radishes and onions 
were dunked wetly in it which made the salt curl up in little balls. 

Snap beans came pretty early, then wax beans, and then the big 
shucky beans that were partly shelled. But the epitome of all beans, 
to me, was the butter bean. We had them big and little, green and 
dried. And then we had a purple-striped kind that tagged along at 
the end of summer. We used to use dried ones for doll jewelry. Beets 
and turnips were dull stuff. We ate them without noticing. Turnip 
greens cooked with hog jowl and served with poached eggs was some- 



204 Alberta W. Constant 

thing I endured for the sake of the hard crusty corn pone that went 
with it. 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower I never heard of. We did 
have cabbage. As cole slaw with sour cream dressing it was fine. But 
cooked— well, the less said about it the better. It was boiled at least 
seven hours and it came out a limp brownish pink mess. As my grand- 
mother's Old Virginia Coo\ Boo\ delicately put it, "not a dish for 
convalescents." We had sauerkraut, too, made in a barrel and cut 
down with a new spade, but I always thought Mama had it made to 
please Grandmother and not because anybody liked it. 

We had all kinds of desserts. Blanc mange— Mattie called it "black 
mange"— boiled custard, invariably served in plain glass cups with 
whipped cream on top, homemade ice cream, fruit gelatine out of the 
box with that innocent-eyed little calf's head on it. But the thing I 
remember best was cobblers. 

There was a kind of calendar of cobblers. First came the dewberries, 
then the blackberries; then there was a triumphant pause for straw- 
berry shortcake. Now, you're not going to get me into THAT con- 
troversy. I'll just say I think cake shortcake is awful. Then came the 
peach cobblers. 

You could smell a peach cobbler all through dinner, and when 
Mattie opened the oven door to take it out you had to swallow quick 
because that aroma would make the taste buds of a mummy burst into 
bloom. I don't doubt that if Esau had exchanged his birthright for 
a fresh peach cobbler he would never have regretted it. Cobblers 
came to the table in the longest of the black pans and were put in front 
of Mama on two dingy asbestos mats. The top of the pan was covered 
with rich pastry rolled thicker than for pie and it was laid over layers 
and layers of sliced peaches (fifty cents a bushel) with lots of sugar 
and a little flour and cinnamon and nutmeg and chunks — not dabs — 
of butter. The juice bubbled and oozed through the fancy gashes cut 
like fern fronds in the brown crust. That juice was the distilled good- 
ness of Southern cooking. It was pinkish with just a faint hint of 
mauve in it and it had an iridescent overlay of tiny yellow spots of 
melted butter. Mama served it in cut-glass berry dishes and we poured 
the bowls full of cream. I loved to watch the cream curdle ever so little 
around the edges. That was one dish where the last bite was as good 
as the first. 



They Set a Good Table 205 

Well, that was dinner. After that we tore back to school. Maybe 
we worked off the excess calories that way. Certainly none of us 
was ever fat. 

And after school we were starved. There were strict rules about 
what could and couldn't be eaten. We could always have tea cakes, 
big thin cookies that spilled sugar off the top. Mattie made them by 
the thousands. Then there was a little barrel of American Beauty 
gingersnaps. They were hard and crackled on top, and the boys liked 
them better than the girls did, though they were good if you dunked 
them in milk and ate them quickly with the crispness going but not 
quite gone. Sandwiches were for the next generation. Peanut butter 
and crackers were a special treat, nice to take out to the playhouse 
under the hackberry tree. There was light-bread and jelly and cold 
biscuit with butter and sugar. Apples and those hard rocky green 
pears were a good snack. Mama had the pears wrapped in newspaper 
and put away in a barrel in the packing room to mellow and keep till 
Christmas — but they never lasted. 

Supper came about half-past five. Mattie held out for that. She 
went home after dinner and came back at four to cook supper, for she 
wanted to get back to her cabin before clean dark. Tough white boys 
made life miserable for the colored cooks if they went home late. 
Supper was mostly dinner over again. Warmed up, I mean. There 
would be one new dish added. It might be macaroni and cheese. 
Sharp, crumbly rat-trap cheese covered the top of the big black pan and 
ran down through the delicate custard. It came to the table hissing 
and bubbling and just right. Miss Fanny Farmer and I have regulated 
ovens and our baked macaroni is undercooked and runny, or over- 
cooked and curdled. Mattie had a balky Excelsior wood stove and her 
black hand for a gauge, but she never missed. 

Wet hash was a supper dish. Pure hash, undefiled, has nothing in it 
but beef, potatoes, onions, and gravy. No peas or carrots or tomatoes 
or odds and ends. Hash is an accomplishment, not a catchall. With 
hot biscuit and hash you have enough for supper, anyway. 

Another supper dish was chicken pie. Grandmother always made 
it. It had no discernible relationship with the individual casserole, one 
biscuit, one teaspoon of chicken and a cup of tired green peas that is 
served under that name in Tea Shoppes. Our chicken pie was made 
from two hens cut up and cooked till the meat was falling from the 
bones. Then it was put into one of the middle-sized black pans and 



206 Alberta W. Constant 

covered with gravy and chopped hard-boiled eggs. In the middle of 
the pan went a china cup — teacup — upside down and firmly grounded 
on the bottom. Over all this went a short, thin, biscuit-dough crust. 
The cup, by some mysterious process, gathered the gravy under it so 
that the crust was never soggy. When Papa cut through the crust he 
would lift the edge of the cup and there was a great gush of rich gravy 
released just at the right moment. 

For supper, we often had biscuits that had been baked at noon, split 
open, buttered, and toasted. Sometimes if Papa was not feeling well 
he would have just that in a bowl with hot milk poured over it. 

Oyster soup, vegetable soup, and cream of tomato soup were all 
winter supper dishes. We were allowed to break up soda crackers in 
the big shallow bowls, but I don't think Mama ever missed a time 
reminding us that it wasn't really good manners, and we must remem- 
ber never to do it away from home. At our house soup was served 
at the table from a huge blue-and-white tureen with a silver ladle. 
Mama used to tell us that at Grandmother's they always had oyster soup 
for Sunday morning breakfast, and the recipe began, "Take one hun- 
dred oysters . . ." 

Party food was different from company food. Company food was 
what we had all the time, only more of it all at once. Party food was 
planned carefully and labored over. A party with invitations brought 
out the battered egg-stained cookbook and meant short rations for a 
day or so while Mama and Mattie "got ready." 

Beaten biscuit was party food. It's a short, stiff dough without any 
"raisin' " and when it's made you take the rolling pin and beat it till 
it blisters — that's just before your arm breaks off. Most families had 
a special oak biscuit block. The biscuits are pricked twice with a fork 
and baked to a creamy tan. Never brown. A party becomes an Occa- 
sion when you have beaten biscuit split and with a slice of pink ham 
showing around the edge. 

And that brings up ham. We always had boiled ham, never baked. 
I used to feel kind of embarrassed after I left Tennessee and folks from 
Jersey City would talk about Southern baked ham. I even used to 
sneak honest boiled hams into the oven and melt a fancy brown sugar 
paste over them. Now I let ham stand on its own flavor as long as I 
can get Tennessee ham. It's the packing-house hams that need the 
curlecues. 



They Set a Good Table 207 

Our hams came from the country, and you had to have lived in the 
town since 1800 and have at least kinfolks in the Confederate Army 
before old Mr. Coe would sell you a ham. A good ham was at least 
three years old and weighed around seventeen pounds. 

After you got the ham, you washed it well and soaked it overnight 
in warm water. Then you put it in a washboiler surrounded by sweet- 
smelling hay (don't ask me why) and covered it with water, tossing 
in a handful of mixed spices, three or four little red pepperpods, some 
brown sugar and some molasses. Then you let it boil on the back of the 
stove, turning it over once and cooking it till you could stick a fork 
to the bone. That took twenty minutes to the pound, if you're time- 
minded. It was cooled in its own juice and then skinned. The skin 
was saved for a covering for the cut side. When the ham was cold, 
it was sliced with a knife as sharp as God's Sunday razor. It was 
supposed to last for a long time but it never did. 

Five hundred was the social card game in those days. A card party 
meant supper served in the living room and it brought out the thinnest 
Haviland and the most elaborate silver. As the Courier always put it, 
"At a late hour the hostess served a delicious two-course supper." One 
of the favorite servings, if the party was in the winter, was Scotch Stew 
with tiny baking-powder biscuits, Waldorf salad and coffee. That 
was the first course. The second was Charlotte Russe garnished with 
candied violets and rose leaves. 

I want to tell about the Scotch Stew because I never heard of it out- 
side our town and it is worth remembering. With ration points what 
they are, memory is as near as I can get, but that is something. It took 
three pounds of beef with no skin or fat put through the meat grinder. 
You'd better do this at home, or you might get hamburger. Put it in 
a deep pan. We used the fireless-cooker pans which are still doing 
service. Add three quarts of cold water. Boil three hours, and after 
the second hour add a pound of butter, a teaspoon of sugar, salt and 
black pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne. The recipe says cook 
"till it beads." I don't know what that means, but I do know it is one 
of the richest, best dishes I ever ate, and if you are too proud to put your 
biscuit down in the gravy you are cheating yourself. 

Chicken salad was as standard for weddings as the license. Every 
family had its own recipe. We had two. One for ordinary chicken 
salad, made when the hens had stopped laying or there were too many 
tough roosters. That had hard-boiled eggs, sweet pickles, celery, and 



208 Alberta W. Constant 

maybe some pecans if the Texas kinfolks had sent us a barrel. The 
party kind was made of the breast of chicken, peeled and seeded Ma- 
laga grapes, toasted almonds, celery and mayonnaise. That last is 
pronounced "mi-onnaise" and made in a double boiler with milk, eggs, 
vinegar, mustard, and two cups of whipped cream folded in. 

When my sisters grew up and had beaux they would do fancy things 
with the chafing dish that stood on the sideboard. It was left over from 
the days when Mama was a Gibson Girl. But the Welsh rarebit (I 
called it "rabbit" for twenty years) usually turned out stringy and 
tough. So they usually stuck to big platters of fudge with a shining 
slick finish. 

Fruitcake was for Christmas, and so were mince pies. They were 
the only kind of pies we ever had. Ambrosia was always served at 
Christmas. It is one dish that deserves its fancy name — oranges and 
pineapple cut up and sweetened with powdered sugar and then 
smothered in fresh grated coconut. It was served from the big glass 
punch bowl into clear glass cups. Anybody who put bananas into 
ambrosia probably had a carpetbagger ancestor. 

No, it wasn't any trouble to get us to eat. And what we had was 
just regular fare. Goodness knows we didn't "have money." Mattie 
was paid three dollars a week, and a succession of houseboys two dol- 
lars. We lived the way most of the folks around us lived. I know, 
because I grew up in the golden age of "spend the night." Breakfast 
was the same at the McClains', Cousin Martha James', Annie Green 
Smith's, and all the other homes. 

Now that I have thought about it and written all this down, I think 
the food was better. It wasn't the ingredients. There was little re- 
frigeration or rapid transportation. We couldn't have pompano from 
Florida, Colorado lettuce, Iowa potatoes, and California peaches at 
the same meal. There were no quick-freezing units and very few 
canned foods. Certainly the kitchen equipment was primitive along- 
side the chromium and glass of today. The most complicated gadget 
we had was a dover egg beater, and Mattie scorned that for the wire 
whisk. 

I reckon the difference lay somewhere else. It seems to me that the 
things Mama and Mattie had that lots of people lack now were skill, 
accumulated by generations of good cooks, time — plenty of time and 
nothing pushing in — and a great pride in "setting a good table." I'd 
like them both to know that they did. 



NEW HOPE MEETINGHOUSE 

Edgar Lee Masters 

My heart is full of sorrow over New Hope Meetinghouse, 

It burned down so long ago it's now all forgot, 

And weeds and corn are growing in the old-time spot 

Where the folks once stood about, and talked when church was out. 

I keep thinking of the people 

By horse and shank's mare 

Who assembled at this steeple 

For singing and for prayer. 

I seem to hear voices, voices, voices 

Of the farmer congregation 

When every eye was dim; 

And the sorrow of salvation 

Was a sorrow that rejoices; 

And faith and its foundation, 

And the soul's consecration 

Were nothing but the singing of a gospel hymn. 

The souls of that people were their own Holy Scriptures, 

And they searched them by their singing, and instead of puzzle pictures 

Of the Bible, they had song. 

The mood that moved their singing was their test of right and wrong; 

The creed was love and heaven, and the sweet forget-me-nots, 

The poetry of Wesley, of Cowper and of Watts; 

The faith was give the poor man, the humble man his due, 

And make a neighbor in your heart of everyone you knew. 

I never shall forget the eyes of old grandmothers 

Who looked at me so tenderly 

In their faded hats and cloaks; 

Or Greenberry Atterberry whose voice with feeling trembled 

When calling me a good lad 

Because he loved my folks. 

I still can hear their voices as they sang of love excelling; 

Of rocks and hills and valleys where milk and honey flowed; 



209 



210 Edgar Lee Masters 

And how beyond the Jordan was a fair eternal dwelling 

Where the heart would find its happiness, 

And the soul an abode. 

This is the Word as mystical as the coal borne by the seraphim, 

Some seed was from the Bible, but their hearts were the soil; 

It was a flower of human love, 

Of man love and woman love, 

A separate religion made of hymns. 

And now amid the hammer's blow, the squawking of the radio, 

The rattle of the trucks on the walls along the street, 

I hear their singing voices above the iron noises, 

I see the grove of oak trees, and endless fields of wheat. 

Before me come the faces of old Malkom Hubley, 

Of old Samuel Blivens, of old George Spear, 

Just as I saw them as a boy assembled for the very joy 

Of singing of a heaven that shortly would appear; 

Singing with their women and their children of a happy land, 

The faraway home of the soul beyond the flood; 

Singing, soon the light of day 

Shall forever pass away, 

Singing of the fountain filled with blood. 

And though it may have been that some debated sin, 

And the fate that man was in; 

And if some were soul-concerned 

For salvation to be earned, 

Not eternally decreed, 

All of this is past and gone, 

And their singing long was blown 

Far away along the blast 

That destroyed that simple past; 

Scarcely memory remains 

How they trebled forth the strains 

Of the hymns by poets framed 

All the centuries along, 

How their spirits rose and flamed 

In their song. 



New Hope Meetinghouse 211 

Where are the bones of old Elvira Momeyer, 

Where are the skulls of old man Smoot, 

Old man Craig, and old man Alkire, 

Old John McNamar and Parthenia Clute ? 

Where, since the graveyard of the New Hope Meetinghouse 

Was plowed up and harrowed and planted in corn ? 

Where, since they closed their eyes in hope of a paradise 

Welcomed by hymns at the resurrection morn ? 

O Orphics, Orphics of the Illinois prairies, 

Of Goodpastures, Clarys! 

O voice of Royal Potter whose thundering tones 

Overflowed the church as a goblet which brims, 

In singing the hymns 

In deep crescendos and quavering whims! 

O Royal Potter, O Royal Potter, 

What has become of your venerable skull, 

Your resurrection bones, 

Your judgment-day bones and skull ? 




Lady Wildcat 

Frederick Kleibacker 

A BUTCHER SHOP— Dead wood, South Dakota, August 2, 1876. 
A rough-planked interior with a door in the rear and a window 
left of it. On the left wall hang cuts of meat. Out from the wall 
is a modern counter and below it a chopping block,- Down right 
a door, and above it against the wall a wooden bench. Jake Surdy, 
the proprietor, is showing Heinrich a side of beef. It's about the 
middle of a hot afternoon. 

SURDY (starting to cut the meat). A juicy four-pounder oughta 
hit the spot. 

HEINIE. It shure will when yuv been livin' on mostly beans an' 
bacon. 

SURDY. Gettin' rich, Heinie? 

HEINIE. Not when the sluice boxes ain't payin' more'n eight to 
twelve dollars a day. 

SURDY. Bob Stillwell shure struck it, didn't he, up Whitewood 
crick? Heard he's ten thousand ahead already, an' he ain't worked 
sixty feet yet. 

HEINIE. Yah, the lucky bum. Though he wasn't so lucky last 

night, was he? 

SURDY. How's that, Heinie? 

HEINIE. Didn't you hear about Johnny Slaughter gettin' shot oft 
the box of the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage comin' down Split-Tail 
Gulch last night ? 

SURDY. Hell, yes, but— 

HEINIE. Bob had over three thousand dollars worth of dust on it. 
There was fifteen thousand dollars in all them road agents got. 

SURDY. Criminy! That's a hell of a sight of dust. There's been 
too damn much of that goin' on lately. Seems like all the gamblers 

212 



Lady Wildcat 213 

an' outlaws in the West have stacked their chips in town, an' more 
comin' in every day. With all the killin' that's been goin' on, yer 
life ain't worth an ounce of bilge. Frank Towle, Varnes, Brady are 
practically runnin' the town now. 

HEINIE. They think it was Towle's outfit that done the job. 

SURDY (cutting the bone with the cleaver and pounding the stea\). 
They think. That's about as far as they ever get. 

HEINIE: Calamity Jane was sayin' last night 'cross there in Num- 
ber Ten that the council's gonna make Wild Bill Hickok marshal. 

SURDY. Hope she weren't too soused to know what she was talk- 
ing about. Deadwood shure needs him and they couldn't stumble on 
a better man if they was blowed blind. (Weighing the stea\) Jest a 
mite over four pounds. Eight bucks, Heinie. 

HEINIE. Prices shure are terrible since this rush started. 

SURDY (weighing out HEINIE'S dust). Ya telling me. Sixty 
dollars for one barrel of flour. It's plumb loco. 

HEINIE. Wild Bill's the fellow that cleaned up Abilene an' Hays 
City, ain't he? 

SURDY. He shure did. Better 'n a Kansas tornado, an' without 
leavin' so much mess behind. (At that moment a shot is heard across 
the street, instantly followed by a yell.) Sounded like it was over in 
Number Ten, didn't it ? 

VOICES (coming from across the street). Wild Bill is shot! Wild 
Bill is shot! (Immediately comes the sound of running, tramping 
feet. As HEINIE steps out of the door, JACK McCALL can be seen 
backing towards the butcher shop, standing off the crowd with his 
pistols.) 

McCALL. Keep yer distance or there'll be more of ya. Back there. 
( The crowd mutters angrily.) 

CALAMITY. He's gettin' away! What's the matter with you 
men? Get 'im! He killed Wild Bill! (McCALL is in the doorway 
now. He bumps into the petrified HEINIE, whom he seizes roughly 
and shoves in front of him.) 

McCALL. Get out of here. (He leaps inside, closing the door 
quickly and bolting it. Turns and sees the quavering SURDY who 
throws his arms over his head.) Hell's fire! How many more's 
around ? 

SURDY. None, sir. I'll swear. 

McCALL. Yorelyin'. 



214 Frederick Kleibacker 

SURDY. It's the gospel truth, sir. I'm the only one that lives here 
an' works here. 

McCALL (looking at SURDY'S hands over his head). I see yuv 
been raised up right. Take 'em down an' put 'em to some use barri- 
cadin' that door. Hot foot it. (SURDY starts pulling the bench in 
front of the door and piling boxes on top of it.) Hear them coyotes 
howling out there ? They want my carcass. Ya know why ? I'll tell 
ya why. Because I shot Wild Bill Hickok. That's why. Wild Bill 
Hickok, the world's greatest gunman. Only he ain't no more. Who's 
the world's greatest gunman now, you pot-bellied prairie dog? 

SURDY. Why . . . why, I guess you is, sir, if you shot Wild Bill! 

McCALL. Don't ya know my name? (SURDY shades his head 
fearfully.) I've a mind to shoot you down in your tracks, you namby- 
pamby sowbelly. I'll tell you who I am. I'm Jack McCall. (Roaring) 
McCall! Jack McCall! (CALAMITY appears cautiously in the right 
doorway. She isn't completely dressed. McCALL has his back to her, 
talking to SURDY. She glances about the room, notices the meat 
cleaver on the blocks, tiptoes over after it, while McCALL continues 
to bully SURDY.) 

SURDY. Yes, sir. 

McCALL. Yes, sir, what ? 

SURDY. Jack McCall. 

McCALL. Remember that. An' this here's the six-shooter what 
finished Wild Bill. Smith and Wesson, .38. Remember that too. 

SURDY. Yes, Mr. McCall. 

McCALL. An' don't forget there's plenty of slugs left in these here 
chambers. 

SURDY. I won't, Mr. McCall. 

McCALL. Everybody was afraid of Wild Bill. He had thirty-six 
notches on his guns. Everybody was afraid of him but Jack McCall. 
Now they're all afraid of me. Look at them out there. They're 
skeered green-white of me. 

SURDY (staring petrified at CALAMITY who is creeping up be- 
hind McCALL with the cleaver in her hand). Y-Yes, Mr. McCall. 

McCALL. Don't stand there gawkin'! Pile up that barricade! 

CALAMITY (cleaver poised for action). Drop them Smith and 
Wesson thirty-eights, McCall, or I'll split yu down the middle from 
head to hocks. Drop them, I said. (McCALL sees the cleaver poised 
and does so.) Back up in that corner, or I'll chop yu into hamburger. 



Lady Wildcat 215 

(She threatens him with the cleaver. He drops bac\ into the up-right 
corner.) Now give me them guns, Jake. (SURDY picks the guns 
up and hands them to CALAMITY one at a time.) Here's yer cleaver. 
It's done the best day's work it ever done. Frame it. Now tear that 
barricade down. (To McCALL) If I'd done to you what you jest 
done to Wild Bill, you'd be stretched out on this here floor in two 
pieces. Even a rattlesnake warns before it strikes. You murdered one 
of the greatest men the West has ever known. You murdered the 
one man I ever looked up to. Now we'll see what a bold, bad man 
you are when you face a little neck-stretchin', Jack McCall. (To 
SURDY) Open the door and tell 'em to come in. (Men pile into 
the room talking and cursing, Sheriff Bullock leading the way.) 

CROWD. Here he is, boys. Take 'im away! (Three or four seize 
McCALL roughly. Others go up to CALAMITY.) Great work, 

Calam Put 'er there, old girl. ... She did it with a meat cleaver. 

. . . Where was her guns ? . . . That shure took nerve. . . . Lookit the 
yelly-belly snake. (During this, VARNES and BRADY and TOWLE 
have been talking with JUDGE KUYKENDALL.) 

McCALL. I gotta right to a trial. I gotta right to a trial. 

CROWD. Hear that. Right to a trial. (Laughing) Hang 'im! 
Lynch 'im! . . . It's too good fer 'im. Tear 'im apart! . . . Take 'im 
to the end of the town an' string 'im up! (As they're roughing 
McCALL out of the shop, JUDGE KUYKENDALL steps upon a 
barrel and shouts out.) 

JUDGE. Just a minute, boys. Not so fast, my friends. 

CROWD. It's the Judge. Hush it up! 

JUDGE. Just a minute, boys, please. You're actin' mighty hasty 
on mighty short notice. You know as well as I do, two wrongs don't 
make a right. We don't yet know the particulars of this shootin'. 

CALAMITY. The hell we don't! 

MANN. Captain Massey an' Carl Rich an' myself were settin' 
right at the same table, when McCall snuck up back of Wild Bill— 

VARNES. Prove it. 

MANN. Why, of course I'll prove it. 

JUDGE. You've got to do that in court, Carl. That's the only 
place you can prove or disprove anything. The rest of you boys don't 
know what happened. You only heard. Lord knows lawlessness is 
runnin' rampant in Deadwood an' we got to put an end to it. But 



216 Frederick Kleib acker 

we can't stop lawlessness by bein' lawless ourselves. We got to try 
him fair an' square. 

CALAMITY. Wild Bill didn't get no chance. 

JUDGE. If McCall's guilty it's up to a jury to decide. 

TOWLE. Tell the Sheriff to arrest him an' put him on trial. - 

CALAMITY. Then he'd better arrest you too. 

TOWLE. Ferwhat? 

CALAMITY. Fer that killin' out at Split-Tail Gulch last night. 

TOWLE (putting his hand to his pistol). Take them words back, 

you — 

JUDGE. Here! Here! We can't have this. We're sutferin' too 
much from hot tempers an' hasty words as it is. Sheriff Bullock, arrest 
an' hold him in the calaboose until we panel a jury. (BULLOCK 
goes over to take McCALL from the men.) 

CALAMITY (stepping to the center of the room). Neither Bullock 
or you, Judge, nor nobody else is gonna budge McCall one step out- 
side this room. Take 'im to the calaboose! With him in cahoots with 
Varnes an' Towle, that two-seated privy wouldn't hold him till sun- 
down. If yer gonna try 'im, try 'im now, or I'll take 'im out an' swing 
'im myself, an' I'd like to see any mother's son of yu stop me. (Cries 
of assent.) 

JUDGE. All right. We'll try him now. We'll hold a rump court 
right here where Calam caught him. Clear off the counter, Jake. 
We'll put the jury behind it. That chopping block we'll use for the 
witness stand. Bullock'll take McCall down there an' keep him in 
close custody. 

CALAMITY. I'll see to that myself. 

JUDGE. McCall has the privilege of appointing defense counsel 
or defending himself. Which do you prefer, McCall? 

McCALL. I don't quite understand ya, Judge. 

JUDGE. Do you want to defend yourself, or do you want some- 
body else to do it for you? 

BRADY (before McCALL can answer). I'll defend him, yer honor. 

JUDGE. Is Tim Brady acceptable to you, McCall? 

McCALL. Shure, Tim's fine. 

JUDGE. Any friend of Wild Bill want to do the prosecutin* for 
the law-abidin' citizens of Deadwood? 

CALAMITY. You bet yer boots. (Steps forward. Everyone mur- 
murs in surprise.) 



Lady Wildcat 217 

JUDGE. But, Calam, you don't know anything about— 

CALAMITY. I know the laws of straight shootin' an' fair play. 

CROWD. Calam's all right. . . . Shure, let 'er speak fer us Let 

'er speak fer Bill. 

JUDGE. Counsel for the prosecution, Calamity Jane. (A few 
cheers) To save time, controversy, an' bad blood as well as expedite 
the machinery of justice — at your own insistence — I shall impanel 
the jury myself. Every man and woman in this room is eligible to 
be called except for the following two restrictions: First, those who 
are potential witnesses; second, those who are friends of either the 
deceased or the defendant and therefore prejudiced. Counsels for 
defense and prosecution may challenge within these restrictions. Within 
these restrictions only. Will all who feel they do not come under the 
limitations stated form along the front here ? I appoint R. B. Hughes, 
reporter of the Weekly Pioneer, clerk of the court. (There's a shifting 
and moving of the people packed in the room. The JUDGE pulls 
out his pistol and uses the butt as a gavel. From his elevated position 
he pounds for order. The room quiets down.) I hereby declare this 
court of law sanctioned by the citizens of Deadwood open an' ready 
for business, this second day of August, 1876. (Pounds twice) Before 
the court impanels a jury, it hereby orders all side-arms deposited in 
the middle of the room for the mutual protection of all parties con- 
cerned. They shall be returned in good order at the conclusion of the 
trial. (There is a rattle and clatter as the side-arms are gathered and 
deposited on the floor by three or four men.) 

CALAMITY. Jake, stand over here where I am, an' if Desperate 
Jack makes a motion, lay him open with that cleaver. 

JUDGE. The following will take their stand behind the counter 
in the jury box. Ed Durham, Jeff Balf, Sid Moon, Bill Curley, Al 
Lobdell, George Schugardt, an' what's your name, my young lady? 

ELLA. Ella Larue. 

JUDGE. Ella Larue? You sing an' dance at the Melodeon? 

ELLA. That's right, Judge. 

JUDGE. There's seven there now. That ought to be enough. Is 
it all right with you, Calam ? 

CALAMITY. Hell, yes! I mean yes, your Honor. 

JUDGE. You, Brady? 

BRADY. Shore. 

JUDGE. Does either counsel wish to challenge? 



218 Frederick Kleib acker 

BRADY. They're all right with me, yer Honor. Particularly the 
first one there. (Crowd laughs.) 
CALAMITY. I challenge Bill Curley an' Sid Moon. 
JUDGE. Reasons? 

CALAMITY. They're both side-kicks of Varnes. 
JUDGE. McCall's on trial, not Varnes. 

CALAMITY. Side-kicks of Varnes are side-kicks of McCall. 
JUDGE. That sounds like a pretty sweeping statement, Calam. 
(To CURLEY and MOON) Are you boys particularly friendly to the 
defendant ? 
MOON. Nope. 

CURLEY. Not particularly. (BRADY winks at VARNES.) 
JUDGE. Callenge overruled. 
CALAMITY. But I tell you, Judge— 
JUDGE. Prosecution, proceed with the trial. 
CALAMITY, —they are. I know. I've guzzled with 'em. 
JUDGE (pounding his revolver butt and raising his voice). Prose- 
cution, proceed with the trial. Call your witnesses. 

CALAMITY. Captain Massey. (MASSEY comes forward; his left 
forearm is bandaged.) 
JUDGE. Take the stand, Captain. 

CALAMITY. Mind your pants' seat on that there choppin' block 
(A burlap bag is thrown over it.) 
JUDGE. Swear to tell the truth, Captain? 
MASSEY. I should say so, Judge. I got plenty to tell. 
JUDGE. Raise your right hand. (MASSEY does so.) All right. 
(MASSEY sits on the bloc\.) 
CALAMITY. Captain, where was you about three this afternoon ? 
MASSEY. 'Cross the street in Number Ten. Nuttall's and Mann's 
saloon. 
CALAMITY. What was yu doin'? 

MASSEY. Playin' poker an' havin' a few drinks with Charlie Rich, 
Carl Mann, an' Wild Bill. 
CALAMITY. How was you an' Charlie an' Carl a-feelin'? 
MASSEY. In great spirits. We was jokin' an' laughin'. 
CALAMITY. Was Wild Bill in these same spirits? 
MASSEY. No, he weren't. He seemed kinda uneasy an' worried 
about somethin'. 



Lady Wildcat 219 

BRADY (coming forward). I object, yer Honor, on the grounds 
of a leadin' question. (The JUDGE looks sharply at BRADY.) 

CALAMITY. Sit down, you weasel, till I get through. 

JUDGE. Objection sustained. Cross that answer from the records. 

CALAMITY. What! You old bloo-beard— 

JUDGE. Objection sustained! Proceed with the examination. 

CALAMITY. How was Wild Bill a-settin'? 

MASSEY. With his back to the door. 

CALAMITY. Did you see Desperate Jack come in? 

MASSEY. I knew somebody came in, but I didn't know fer shure 
it was McCall until after he shot. 

CALAMITY. What happened? 

MASSEY. The stakes was purty high an' we was watchin' our 
cards close. I was discardin' when I felt somebody standin' back of 
Wild Bill. Jest as I looked up I saw 'im jerk out his gun. He yelled, 
"Damn you, take that!" An' fired. The gun wasn't more'n a yard 
from his head. Everythin' happened purty fast. I felt a burnin' pain 
in my arm. At first I thought I'd been shot by Wild Bill, an' I yelled. 
But he dropped forward slowly on the table an' slid off his stool to 
the floor without a sound. His cards was still in his hands. Aces an' 
eights he held. The bullet had gone through Wild Bill's head, come 
out his cheek, an' lodged in my arm. 

CALAMITY. What did Desperate Jack do then? 

MASSEY. He stood us an' Harry Young, the barkeeper, off till he 
got out the door. 

CALAMITY. Then what? 

MASSEY. He ran for his pony. But his saddle slipped when he 
vaulted into it. He picked himself up an' held the crowd off while 
he backed into Jake's shop here. 

CALAMITY. Thank yu, Captain. 

JUDGE. That's all, Massey. 

CALAMITY. Carl Mann. 

JUDGE. Swear to tell the truth? 

MANN (holding up his right hand). Yep. 

JUDGE. Take the stand. 

CALAMITY. Was Massey's story true? 

MANN. True as a rifle bore. 

CALAMITY. Yu got anything to add to it ? 

MANN. Nope. That's jest the way it happened. 



220 Frederick Kleibacker 

CALAMITY. Thank yu, Carl. 

JUDGE. That's all, Mann. 

CALAMITY. Charlie Rich. 

JUDGE. Swear to tell the truth? 

RICH (holding up his right hand). Yes, sir. 

JUDGE. Take the stand. 

CALAMITY. Was Massey's story true? 

RICH. It shore was. 

CALAMITY. Anything to add to it? 

RICH. I shore have. 

CALAMITY. What is it? 

RICH. I'm to blame for Wild Bill's death. 

CALAMITY. What do you mean, yore to blame ? 

RICH. Wild Bill was sittin' with his back to the door. It's the 
first time I ever saw him do that. After playin' a couple of pots, he 
grew uneasy. Said he wanted to change places with me. I laughed 
at him an' joked him about it. So he didn't change. I'm the one 
that's to blame. I'd rather stepped out myself than see Wild Bill go. 

CALAMITY. They wasn't after you, Charlie. That's all. 

JUDGE (as CALAMITY looks about the room). Any more wit- 
nesses, prosecution? 

CALAMITY. Yes; Tim Brady. 

BRADY. What! 

CALAMITY. Tim Brady, I said. 

BRADY. But, yer Honor, this ain't legal. 

JUDGE. How do you know what's legal an' what ain't ? Take the 
stand. (As BRADY wal\s over, glaring at CALAMITY) Swear to 
tell the truth? 

BRADY (nodding shortly and holding up his hand halfheartedly). 
Of course. 

CALAMITY. Remember when we was drinkin' at the bar in 
Number Ten two nights ago ? (As BRADY deliberates) Harry Young 
does in case yu don't. He set 'em up. 

BRADY. Yeah. 

CALAMITY. Remember us talkin' about Wild Bill gonna be made 
marshal ? 

BRADY. No. 

CALAMITY. Yu don't remember that? 

BRADY. No. 



Lady Wildcat 221 

CALAMITY. Do yu remember sayin' Wild Bill had better watch 
hisself if he was made marshal? 

BRADY. No. 

CALAMITY. Yu don't remember that? 

BRADY. No. 

CALAMITY. Yer a sawed-off, double-barreled liar. (BRADY 
leaps to his feet, reaching for his empty holster.) 

JUDGE. If the prosecution can't conduct a dignified an' proper 
examination, I shall be forced to throw this case out of court. 

CALAMITY. But, Judge, I was talkin' with him myself. I know 
what he said. 

JUDGE. His word's as good as yours before the law. 

CALAMITY. The hell it is! 

JUDGE (shouting and pounding his pistol butt). I warn the 
prosecution for the last time. 

CALAMITY. All right. All right. (Bac\ to BRADY) Yu know 
Wild Bill plays poker at Number Ten every afternoon. 

BRADY. The whole town knows that. 

CALAMITY. Yes. An' you'll admit at three o'clock yesterday 
afternoon you an' Varnes an' Towle an' Desperate Jack were a-drinkin' 
an' a-talkin' at the table down near the door ? 

BRADY. I don't know what time it was. Guess it was some time 
about the middle of the afternoon. 

CALAMITY. Did you ever look at the table where Wild Bill was 
playin' ? 

BRADY. I guess so. Hell's fire, a person's got to look somewhere. 
That don't prove nothin'. 

CALAMITY. That's all. Wild Bill's through for the time bein', 
Judge. 

JUDGE. The defense counsel will proceed. (BRADY stretches on 
his toes. Ta\es his time in surveying the room. Scowling fiercely he 
suddenly bites out.) 

BRADY. McCall, take the stand. 

JUDGE. Swear to tell the truth? 

McCALL. Yeah. 

BRADY (after a long pause). Who shot Wild Bill Hickok ? 

McCALL. I did. 

BRADY. What's your name? 

McCALL (puzzled). Jack McCalL 



222 Frederick Kleibacker 

BRADY. What did you do it fer? 

McCALL. He killed my brother back in Kansas. Hays City. 

BRADY (turning away). That's all. (The whole room is startled 
at BRADY'S brevity. McCALL starts to come off the bloc\.) 

CALAMITY. Jest a minute. I got a few questions to put to 'im. 

JUDGE. The prosecution may proceed to cross-examine the wit- 
nesses of the defense. 

CALAMITY. Yu say Wild Bill killed yer brother? 

McCALL. That's right. 

CALAMITY. Didyusee'im? 

McCALL. No. 

CALAMITY. How do yu know he did then? 

McCALL. Why . . . why, everybody saw him. 

CALAMITY. Who's everybody? Who saw 'im? 

McCALL. Guess there ain't anybody round here. But Wild Bill 
shot 'im. He's dead. 

TOWLE (startling the court). I saw 'im. 

JUDGE (pounding with his pistol). You're out of order. 

McCALL. That's so. Frank Towle was there. He tole me about 
it later. 

CALAMITY. He can lie just as well up here as he can back there. 

BRADY. Yer Honor, I object. 

JUDGE. If there's any more breach of court etiquette, I'll have you 
both thrown into the calaboose for contempt of court. Proceed. 

CALAMITY. How do yu know yer brother's dead? 

McCALL. He was shot dead. He must be. 

CALAMITY. But you wasn't there? 

McCALL. No, but Frank— 

CALAMITY. Then yu can't prove whether he's really dead or not ? 

McCALL. No, but Frank— 

CALAMITY. That's all, Desperate Jack. 

McCALL. But Frank— 

JUDGE. You may leave the stand, McCall (McCALL does.) Make 
your jury pleas brief an' to the point. Proceed, prosecution. 

CALAMITY (to BULLOCK). Keep a close watch on that arsenal 
while I'm spielin'. Some folks won't like what I'm gonna say. (Then 
facing everyone in the room) My good buckaroos, there ain't no ques- 
tion but what Wild Bill was murdered in a foul an' cowardly fashion. 
Desperate Jack admits he murdered him. Yu heard how he was shot 



Lady Wildcat 223 

from behind within a yard of his head. That's how brave Desperate 
Jack was. That's how much he wasn't afraid of Wild Bill. He stands 
up in front of yu an' boasts about shootin' a man from behind. So 
much for that. Now there's the matter of why he was shot. Brady 
an McCall say it was because Wild Bill shot McCall's brother. How 
do we know he did? We don't have no proof. An' even if he did, 
we have no proof that he wasn't within his rights. Wild Bill was a 
peace officer an' he had his share of killin's to keep the peace. That 
was his job. Now since McCall can't prove he had a brother, an' if he 
had one, that Wild Bill shot 'im, I'm gonna tell you the real reason 
why McCall shot Wild Bill. (Points to BRADY, VARNES, TOWLE, 
who storm to their feet.) 

JUDGE (covering everybody with his pistol). Easy there, boys, 
easy. There'll be no rough stuff in this court. We're proceedin' ac- 
cordin' to court etiquette. 

BRADY. I object, yer Honor. The references of the prosecutor 
are irrelevant, immaterial, and not contained in the evidence. 

JUDGE (astonished). Where in blue blazes did you learn all them 
legalities ? 

BRADY. I ain't been a gambler all my life, yer Honor. 

JUDGE. Objection sustained. 

CALAMITY. But, Judge, I'm jest try in' to show that these out- 
laws are runnin' the town an' they paid McCall — (Shouts of protest 
from the Varnes faction. JUDGE pounds his pistol butt.) 

JUDGE. Silence! Objection sustained, I said. Calamity Jane, I 
pronounce you in contempt of court. The defense may rest its case. 

BRADY (rising, smiling, he talhj directly to the jury). Ladies and 
Gentlemen of the jury, the defense don't deny for a moment that 
McCall killed Hickok. Our only contention is that under the natural 
code of the West, which is its only law, McCall was justified in killin' 
the man who killed his brother. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a 
tooth. The defense rests. 

JUDGE (to the jury). The jury has heard the evidence and the 
pleas. You are to give a verdict by the facts of the case alone. You 
will find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the death of Wild Bill 
Hickok. ( The jury files out through the door down right. The door 
is closed behind them. The room buzzes with expectation.) Keep 
that gun pile clear. (Some people are forced bac\ away from the 



224 Frederick Kleibacker 

center area. The jurors come bac\.) Defendant, stand up an' face 
the jury. Announce the verdict. 

CURLEY. Not guilty. ( The room is in an uproar. When things 
quiet down a little, CALAMITY shouts to be heard.) 

CALAMITY. It's all over. It's all over. I'd jest like to say a word 
to my old buckaroos. 

CROWD. Let her talk. . . . Shure, go ahead, Calam. . . . Speak up. 

CALAMITY. I can take my medicine, all right. I've done it all 
my life. Shootin' for yer rights fair an' square, an' shootin' in the 
back are two different things. When twenty-two caliber men run a 
forty-four caliber country . . . well, it's time to pull stakes or take it 
away from them. Citizens of Deadwood, citizens of the whole West, 
yer job is jest startin'. (?ic\s up the cleaver and drives it in the floor 
near the guns, and stales through the crowd out the upstage door.) 




The Storm 

Curtis Martin 



THE WIND got up during the night, slowly at first, but by morn- 
ing it was whipping across the plains from the north like some- 
thing wild. There were two layers of clouds in the sky : one low, dark, 
and scudding above the plains in the great wind; the other higher, 
deep grey, and scarcely moving. At eleven o'clock in the morning the 
wind veered slightly and came out of the northeast. 

"That settles it," Tom Fellows said, his wind-wet blue eyes on the 
northern sky. "When the wind shifts over to that corner at this time 
of the year, we're in for a blizzard. Son, you jump on old Snip and 
help me bring the horses in; then we'll get as many of the cows in as 
the corrals will hold — just the milk cows." 

Tom and John, the boy, had been sitting around the barn all morn- 
ing, their horses saddled, waiting for the wind to decide their course 
of action. They leaped into the saddles and galloped away to the south 
pasture where they found the horses already drifted against the fence, 
heads down and tails blown between their legs. It was hard work 
forcing them against the wind to the barn. Tom was closing the 
corral gate behind the horses when the first hard flecks of snow blew 
out of the sky like pellets of ice. They were herding the cattle in on 
a run when the wind softened. Before they got to the corral there was 
not a breath of air stirring, and great, light flakes of snow floated down 
so thickly that it was difficult to see. The flakes were so dry and cold 
that they settled on the cows' backs without melting. 

The ground was already covered when John came to the barn door 
after unsaddling Snip. The snow slanted out of the northeastern sky 
in straight white lines, falling fast with the pressure of a steady, almost 
unnoticeable wind behind it. It was difficult for John to see across the 
corral through the slanting drive of snow. Tom came from the depths 
of the barn and stopped beside John. They grinned at each other. 

225 



226 Curtis Martin 

The cows milled for a while, then crowded against the south fence, 
their humped backs protecting their heads from the onslaught of snow. 
The snow spread evenly; the wind which drove the flakes down from 
the sky was not strong enough to cause any disturbance of the ground 
snow. 

The men stood at the door for a while, then went to the house. Lucy 
and Virginia, John's small sisters, opened the door for them and 
laughed when they came in shaking the snow from their caps and 
coats. It was dark in the house, and Martha, the mother, lighted a 
coal-oil lamp. A fire was roaring in the cook stove ; the stove top was 
red and the odor of steamed food filled the room. 

During the afternoon there was no change in the elements. Tom 
drowsed with his feet near the stove. Martha sat beside the table 
darning socks over an egg. The girls played with paper people they 
had cut out of an old mail-order catalogue. John sat for a while beside 
his father, trying to sleep; then he got up and went to the window and 
watched the snow stream down. The ground was covered with three 
inches of snow. There was a thick blanket of white on the roof of 
the barn and a thin ridge along the top rails of the fences. The cows 
in the corral milled a little, their snow-covered backs humped. The 
sky was dead grey, underlined with a thin veil of black. There was 
no wind. 

At four o'clock Tom and John bundled on their coats and went to 
care for the stock. It wasn't cold. The snow melted in the folds of 
their clothing. The flakes were dry and light as down. There was 
a good warm smell in the barn when John entered it. The horses 
turned and looked at the boy. One or two of them whinnied softly. 
He climbed into the loft and began stuffing hay through the holes 
above the mangers. Dry dust that smelled of autumn smoked up from 
the hay. The horses reached up with long lips and pulled at the hay 
as it fell. John opened the door at the north end of the haymow. 
Snow sifted thinly in as he piled hay outside the window, then jumped 
down on it and carried it to the cattle. 

Tom drew water out of the well and poured it into a wooden chute 
which carried it to the trough inside the corral. The warm water 
smoked in the cold air. The cows stood at the trough and slopped 
their noses in the water, not drinking. Afterwards the men milked 
and carried the buckets to the house. The big cream separator hummed 



The Storm 227 

for half an hour; cream trickled from one spout, and skimmed milk 
foamed from another. 

The family ate supper and sat silently about the hot stove. At eight 
o'clock when John and Tom went outside before going to bed it was 
still snowing. The flakes fell through the yellow lamplight streaming 
from the kitchen window. The snow was six inches deep on the level. 

In bed John lay quietly. The roar of the fire died away gradually. 
There was an unusual hush over the entire house. It seemed smothered 
by the thick blanket of snow and the curtain of the storm. The flakes 
made a faint whish against the window panes. That was the only 
sound. John lay fascinated by the stillness of the night, the wildness 
of the storm sweeping down from some place in the great north where 
he had never been, but toward which his dreams of exploration always 
turned. After a long time he slept. 

The morning sun was so faint behind the clouds that the day seemed 
like grey twilight. The snow stopped for half an hour while the men 
were milking, but it was falling again before they finished putting 
down hay and drawing water. The wind was slightly stronger and 
the flakes drove directly out of the north. The snow reached almost to 
John's knees as he waded to the house. 

At eleven o'clock the snow slackened, the clouds parted overhead, 
and the sun shone through a thin veil of swiftly-scudding clouds. The 
sunshine was very bright for a few minutes, then the clouds drew to- 
gether, the wind stopped, and snow poured down furiously. By night 
there was eighteen inches of snow lying evenly across the plains for 
miles. Only the tops of the tallest weed stalks and the top one third 
of the fence posts broke the undulating whiteness. Nothing stirred; 
the coyotes and the rabbits were burrowed deep beneath the snow. 

In the house that night it was quieter than on the previous evening. 
Tom wore a worried look. Instead of resting beside the fire he paced 
back and forth near the window. Often he pressed his forehead 
against the cold panes and tried to see into the black night; then the 
warm air from his nostrils steamed the glass over. He had expected 
a storm but not one of this size. He was afraid of what was bound 
to happen the next day. 

It was difficult for John to push through the snow to the barns the 
next morning. The cattle were restless. They had kept the snow 
trampled down, and the corral was clear. They moved about, lowing 
incessantly. The horses whinnied when John went to feed them. 



228 Curtis Martin 

Tom stood at the window most of the day, staring at the grey scene. 
Shortly after four o'clock the change came. The snow stopped falling; 
the wind strengthened and veered to the northwest. 

"Well, this is it," Tom said. 

Before Tom and John had time to rush through their chores the 
blizzard was upon them like a pouncing wild beast. The light dry 
snow leaped like autumn leaves before the wind. The flakes which 
had been so soft before bit like steel into John's face as he struggled 
to the house. His sisters were waiting; they jerked the door open 
for him, then slammed it shut. They plugged the crack at the bottom 
of the door with an old rag rug and stuffed pieces of cloth into the 
holes around the doorknob and into the keyhole, but still the snow 
sifted in as fine as emery dust, falling on the red-hot stove, skipping 
and frying there. The house shook during extra-strong gusts; the 
fire leaped and roared in the stovepipe. John stood at the window, 
clenching his fists, wishing that his father would hurry and come from 
the barn. After a long time he saw him struggling through the white 
blizzard, leaning against the onslaught of the wind and trying to 
protect his face from the steel-like particles of snow. John opened 
the door. Tom's eyes were red and his face was already as raw as 
cut beef. The snow had blown into the creases of his clothing and 
become packed there as if it had been tamped. He stamped his feet 
clean, removed his coat, and shook it near the door. Then he swept 
the snow outside. When he finished, Martha packed the rags into 
the holes about the door again. The wind had settled to a steady, 
unwavering roar. The snow sifted onto the stove, spatting. Where 
the snow wasn't near enough the stove to melt, it drifted into tiny 
ridges in front of the cracks through which it blew. 

In bed John pulled the quilts over his head because the cold fine 
mist kept falling on his face, waking him. The house did not shake 
now, but seemed to bend away from the wind so that when the wind 
lessened the house came back into its natural position with a sigh and 
creak of timbers from which the strain had been taken. 

The following morning the sun was shining brightly in a depthless 
blue sky, but John did not see the sun that day. The wind whipped 
the light snow and swirled it furiously along in a curtain that extended 
three hundred feet into the air. Above that distance the sky was 
bright and clean, but from the kitchen window only a dismal greyness 
showed that day had taken the place of night. The family huddled 



The Storm 229 

about the stove; once in a while Martha got up to stuff the rags back 
into the cracks from which the wind had blown them. Tom sat on a 
chair with an apple box upended between his knees. He took a pencil 
from his pocket and began to mark aimlessly on the box. After a 
while he fashioned a checkerboard and blacked in the correct squares. 
When John noticed what his father was doing, he ran to the bedroom 
and got the soiled checkers off a shelf. They placed the checkers in 
position and began to play without speaking. The girls watched. 

Tom paid little attention to the game because he was worried about 
the cows in the corral, their freezing teats almost bursting with milk. 
There was nothing he could do about it. He might have been able 
to reach the barn, but it was so cold that he would not have been able 
to do any work. 

They spent the day quietly, bent over the box playing checkers. They 
ate supper without much talk and went to bed. John had been asleep 
for a long time and it was near the middle of the night when he was 
awakened by a sound that brought him upright in the cold room. The 
lamp was burning dimly on the table where it stood all night in order 
that Martha might see if the children were properly covered. Tom 
was standing in the doorway between the bedroom and the kitchen, 
his head turned in a listening attitude. There was no sound except 
the steady roar of the wind. Then in the wind, lower than its roar, 
there came a tapping at the outside door. Tom took a step forward. 

"Tom, don't open it! Ask who it is!" Martha breathed in a fearful 
whisper. 

Tom glanced at his wife. "Who is it?" he called. 

There was no answer. A moment later the timid tapping was re- 
peated. 

"Who is it?" Tom yelled. 

There was no answer. Tom glanced at the guns hanging above the 
doorway. The knock came again. In one stride Tom was at the 
door. He yanked it wide open with one jerk. A freezing blast shot 
in. The lamp was blown out. In the darkness John sat trembling in 
the bed, the snow and wind striking his warm flesh. 

"Who is it?" Tom yelled again. He could see nothing in the snow- 
filled doorway. 

Martha leaped out of bed and lighted the lamp and turned the wick 
up so that yellow light flooded the room. Tom stood in the doorway, 
his long, grey underwear flapping about his legs, his head thrust for- 



230 Curtis Martin 

ward as he peered into the night. He saw a figure dart from the 
corner of the house toward the door, then stop as it saw him, and 
throw its hands high above its head in a position of surrender. The 
man advanced into the light; his lips worked but no sound came from 
them; his arms were raised above his head as high as he could reach. 

Tom saw the man, and a grin broke across his lips. "Come on in," 
Tom said, motioning the man inside. "My God, why didn't you 
answer me?" 

The man's lips moved but not a sound issued from them. He 
looked into Tom's eyes, and his face lifted in a frozen grin. Tom 
slapped him on the back and laughed, then he rushed to the stove 
and began building up the fire. He kept repeating: "Why didn't you 
answer?" He asked the question thoughtlessly because he knew the 
man, whose name was Andrews, and he knew that Andrews was deaf 
and dumb. Andrews had a homestead six miles farther up the road 
in the edge of the mountains. 

The fire began to burn brightly. Tom came into the bedroom laugh- 
ing and pulled on his clothes. Martha laughed too, in short, hysterical 
jerks. She dressed and went into the kitchen. They placed Andrews 
a little way from the stove so that he wouldn't get warm too quickly. 
Tom leaned out the door and dipped up a dishpan full of snow. He 
rubbed Andrews' face, hands, and feet with the snow for half an hour. 
When the snow melted, Andrews sat with his feet in the pan of cold 
water, a blanket around his shoulders, a foolish twisted grin on his 
face. He kept trying to explain things to Tom with sign language, 
and Tom acted as if he understood. After a while Andrews motioned 
for pencil and paper. He wrote: "I knew you would holler and ask 
who it was and I thought you might get mad and shoot through the 
door when there was no answer. So I knocked, then run round the 
corner of the house to be out of the way if you shot through the door." 
He handed the paper to Tom and laughed silently with great apprecia- 
tion for the predicament in which he had found himself. Tom wrote: 
"What the hell you doin' out on a night like this?" Andrews an- 
swered: "I have been away from home since the first day of the storm. 
My wife hasn't heard from me. She don't know if I am froze to death 
or what. Today I try to get home. My car stuck in a drift four miles 
east of here. I walked about six hours to reach here." 

An hour later Andrews was thoroughly warmed. He drank two 
cups of black coffee and ate the plate of bread and meat that Martha 



The Storm 231 

offered him. Warm and full, he could not keep his eyes open and 
fell asleep sitting in the chair. 

In the morning the wind was still blowing but it had noticeably 
passed the prime of its fury, and was tottering now on weakening 
legs. Tom waited impatiently to get to the barns. Virginia and Lucy 
sat awe-inspired beside Andrews, the man who could not talk or hear. 
They wrote a constant stream of notes to him, which he laughingly 
answered. 

At eleven o'clock the wind broke. Within twenty minutes there 
was not a breath of air stirring. The sun shone from a bright cloudless 
sky on a scene of dazzling whiteness that stretched away beyond the 
horizons. Tom and John got into their coats and went outside. In 
spots around the house and barns the ground was swept bare and clean, 
but on the south side of every building, fence, or bush that had broken 
the force of the wind the slightest bit there was a drift. The lane be- 
tween the fences where the highway ran was level with the tops of the 
posts on either side. The granary was situated in such a position that 
a drift twenty feet high had formed in the center of the corral. The 
cows stood dozing in the blue-white day, gaunt, hungry, tired, swollen- 
eyed after the ceaseless hours of the storm. The horses whinnied softly 
as John drove them out of the barn into the corral. They drank for a 
long time at the trough, then nuzzled the warm water with velvet 
noses, playing in it. Out across the white pastures the mountains 
rimmed the world, cutting a swath of darkness between the spotless 
snow and the clean blue sky. 




The Singing Snakes of the Karankawas 



Walter Prescott Webb 



IT was in the year of '83 that the events that I'm going to tell about 
happened. I remember it because that was a hard year in Texas 
and hundreds of cattlemen went broke, among them Mitchell Tally, 
the man who told me the story. Tally owned a big ranch down on 
the coast in Jackson County. The ranch had come down to him by a 
Spanish grant; it spread out around Karankawa Bay and was the 
finest that the sun ever shone upon. It was prairie country, dotted 
with motts of oak trees from which hang the heavy moss that grows 
only in the damp south country where there is warmth and salt air. 
In the old days it was a hunter's paradise. In the fall the ducks and 
geese came in such flocks that they hid the sun, and in the early morn- 
ing you could hear the booming of the prairie chickens as they strutted 
like little gobblers in a barn yard. On this Tally ranch stood Fort St. 
Louis, built by LaSalle when he landed on Lavaca Bay, and near it 
Stephen Austin made his first settlements. 

This country was in the early days the home of the Karankawa 
Indians, and it was in this region that the tribe perished. Off the 
coast lies a string of sand islands, of which Padre Island is the longest, 
being some 90 miles from end to end. There is another island, much 
smaller, but of considerable extent, known as Karankawa, and these 
two littoral, or sand islands, were the last refuge of the tribe. It is 
generally thought that the Karankawas all died before the Civil War, 
but that is a mistake. They were all gone from Padre by that time, 
but a remnant continued to occupy the coast and Karankawa Island, 
and the last of these, old Joseph, did not die until '83. 

Mitchell Tally, who owned Karankawa Island, did not know when 
the Karankawas settled on it. He didn't care. He had so much land 
and so many cattle that he could not afford to worry over a lone Indian 
neighbor on Karankawa Island. Of course he knew that this queer 

232 



The Singing Snakes of the Karankawas 233 

old Indian made his home there, living on bird eggs, fish, and goat 
meat, together with a little corn and salt from the sea. 

Then came the year of '83, and old Joseph suffered along with the 
rest. For some reason the birds migrated further south; the goats 
died, along with Tally's cattle; the corn crop failed; and old Joseph 
was driven from his island to the haunts of the white man against 
whom he had long nursed his grudge. But Mitchell Tally had a heart 
as big as an ox, and he took the old Indian right under his wing. 
Mitch was going through hell right then, with his cattle dyin' in 
droves, but he gave the Karankawa beans, corn, and meat and sent him 
back to his island home. 

This kindness won old Joseph, and after that he came over to the 
mainland often, and him and Mitchell became right fond of each other. 
But Mitchell noticed that the Indian never invited him out to the island. 
Then one day he comes to Mitch very solemn and says : 

"Long time white man make no track on Karankawa Island. Me 
want you to come. Me tell you about Karankawa." Tally gathered 
that he was to be let in on some secret of the tribe, and his curiosity 
led him to accept the old Indian's invitation. 

At the time set the two crossed over from the mainland, old Joseph 
leading the white man to the highest point of the island where rocks 
were set all around like Druid temples, and in the center there grew 
a single, tall live oak tree— mighty fortunate for Mitch Tally. When 
they were over there the Indian takes from his neck a little flute cut 
from a turkey-leg bone and begins to blow soft-like on it the strange 
jerky notes of Indian music. Of course Mitch took little stock in this, 
him only aimin' to humor the old Indian some. But soon he hears a 
slitherin' and slidin' on the rocks, much like Eve heard, I guess, in 
Eden, and he saw comin' toward the old Karankawa the biggest and 
strangest snake he'd ever seen in all the snake-ridden country of south 
Texas. Mitch grabbed his gun, never passing up a chance to kill a 
rattler — and he could see by now that this was one— but old Joseph 
motioned him to wait. Mitch thinks he'll see things through— not 
fearing one snake. But just then he hears that same slitherin' and 
slidin' and when he looks to the right there comes another snake. But 
old Joseph motions that it's all right— and Jim stands his ground— 
until he sees them snakes a-comin' from all directions, little ones, big 
ones, and middle-sized, and then he makes for that tree, stoppin' upon 
the third limb with a mortal chill. 



234 Walter Prescott Webb 

Yes, Mitch Tally felt reasonable safe on the third limb of that live- 
oak tree, and he begins to enjoy himself. Old Joseph seemed to have 
forgotten all about him. He was a-swaying back'ard and for'ards 
and at the same time movin' in a little circle, blowin' that jerky little 
Indian tune over and over, and all the while them snakes kept comin' 
up, and Mitch thought mebby it was feedin' time for 'em. There must 
have been fifty or more, all rattlers, and they ranged in size from little 
fellers with buttons to five-footers. The big one that came first seemed 
to be foreman — segundo, Mitch called him, or leader — and he proved 
to be. He wriggled and waddled up in about two feet of the old 
Karankawa and then "quiled" himself up as close as he could, keepin' 
his tail free for rattlin' and his head up with eyes fastened on old 
Joseph. But he didn't strike, he just waited polite as ever while all 
the other snakes kept edgin' closer and closer in until the ground all 
around looked like the scalp off that Greek Medusa. And Mitch begins 
to notice what wonderful colors them snakes had, bright blues, greens, 
and browns, not dead and dusky-lookin' like the old diamond backs 
and sidewinders in the rocky upcountry. The leader, though an old 
boy with at least eighteen rattles, was bright blue and green, but mostly 
blue; and Mitch decided to call him Blue — provided he ever got away 
alive. 

Well, when them snakes was finally all set, Jim expected to see the 
old Indian feed 'em, but he didn't. He stopped the music, then blew 
a couple of sharp notes at which old Blue shook his rattlers as if 
approvin', and then all them snakes begin to "quile up" just like old 
Blue, leavin' both head and tail free for action. And all around that 
tree below Mitch was piles and piles of real Texas rattlesnakes. 

Then the old Karankawa started up another jerky tune, and old 
Blue raised his tail and shook his rattles. At the signal the others all 
fell in, some low and soft, some loud and strong, and it was the weirdest 
and strangest music that was ever heard. Finally old Joseph let his 
notes grow weaker, and at length he stopped altogether, just standing 
there with his old eyes closed, swaying back and forth, but them snakes 
kept right on with the tune. Old Blue was leadin', waving his tail 
round and round, and it was easy to distinguish him from the rest on 
account of his size. Mitch Tally swore to his dyin' day that them snakes 
carried all four parts, the little 'uns tenor and alto and the big 'uns 
soprano and bass. And if any of 'em lagged or dropped out or got 
off key old Blue would look 'em over most disapproving, fan the air 



The Singing Snakes of the Karanfatvas 235 

with his tail, or hit it with a clatter on the ground, acting for all the 
world like a choir leader whoopin' up a revival. 

Finally the concert ended. Old Blue "ifnquiled" himself and led the 
way slowly and with great dignity — that snake had been well raised — 
out of the circle and back the way he came. The whole choir followed 
and in a few minutes old Joseph stood alone on the spot where the 
strange scene had been acted. He was still swaying, in a trance, dream- 
ing of the glorious days that his people had known. 

Well, Mitch Tally eases down from the tree and his hair begins to 
settle down where it belonged. Then old Joseph saw him and was 
startled, as though he had forgotten him entirely. 

"You like 'em?" grinned the Indian. 

"Indian," says Tally, "you show me strange things. Tell me, am 
I asleep or have I eaten the locoweed or drunk the Mexican's sotol that 
makes men crazy in the head?" 

"White brother has good eyes. But he sees what white man never 
saw before," replied the Karankawa. 

"I can well believe that!" exclaimed Tally, thinking of old Blue and 
his herd of snakes grazing among the rocks all about him. 




Rank Hester's Hired Help 



Jesse Stuart 



I'VE FOUND A DRIVER for my last idle team," Rank Hester said, 
soon as he stopped his car. 

"That's wonderful," I said. I knew Rank Hester needed to keep 
his eight teams and four tractors going all the time. 

"You can quit hoeing tomatoes and go with me to find 'im," Rank 
said. "He is George Tussie and he lives on Wolf Creek. Do you know 
where Wolf Creek is? Do you know George Tussie?" 

"I know where Wolf Creek is," I said. "I've heard of George Tussie, 
but I don't know 'im." 

"Come on," Rank said. "Let's hurry and get 'im before somebody 
else gets 'im." 

I climbed in the car beside Rank and we drove out the lane. 

"Well, Chick, I hope George Tussie will be as good to work and as 
faithful as you've been," Rank said. "You've been with me eight 
years now." 

I was pleased at these words. I would be with Rank eight years 
longer if all went well. I'd never worked for a better man in my life, 
and I'd worked for many men. He'd given me the best chance I'd 
ever had in my life— a house, garden, cow and the use of a car when 
I wanted it. And he paid me four dollars a day. That was good money 
for a farmer to pay. But Rank Hester had the best farm in our coun- 
try! And when the government asked for more tomatoes to be raised 
this year, Rank Hester set twenty-eight thousand plants. Last year 
we'd only had twenty thousand. We had four acres of leaf-lettuce, 
twelve acres of sugar corn, six acres of cabbage, four acres of melons, 
ten acres of potatoes, forty acres of wheat, eighty acres of corn, thirty 
acres of soybeans, and twenty acres of red clover. We had twenty 
cows to milk, and eighty-eight head of beef cattle to care for. Last 

236 



Ran{ Hester's Hired Help 237 

year we'd used forty-two men; this year we had twenty-eight, and 
Rank was trying to raise more stuff to help win the war. 

"It sounds almost too true to get this man Tussie," Rank said, as we 
sped up the highway. 

I didn't say anything. I was trying to remember the Tussies. I 
remembered when we used to go to square dances among the hills, 
Tussies always made the music. I'd never seen a Tussie who couldn't 
play a fiddle, pick the banjo and guitar. And they were among the 
best dancers in the hills. I didn't tell Rank Hester about this. He 
wanted a man to work. If he could play the fiddle, that was all right, 
just so he could do the work. 

And I could remember when the Tussies drove their skinny mule 
team to Greenwood on "Relief Days" and brought back a wagonload 
of supplies. I could remember seeing the jolt-wagon go down Wolf 
Creek filled with Tussies, dressed in their best, running the mules fast 
as they could go, all heading for Greenwood to get relief. And as 
long as they could get relief, they let the small farms they owned grow 
up in briars and sprouts, and they stopped working for the landowners 
they had rented from. They stopped working when they could get 
enough to live on without working for it. 

"What do you know about the Tussies?" Rank asked me. "Are 
they good to work?" 

"Just fair," I said, trying to remember more about them. 

"Well, George Tussie isn't a spring chicken," Rank said, "but he's 
not too old to drive a team. I told County Agent Bill MacKenzie that 
when he told me about George. I told Bill all he'd have to do was 
drive the team, ride the wagon and cultivator." 

"He ought to do that," I said. 

We left the main highway and followed the Little Sandy River road 
until we came to Wolf Creek. 

"Sure a rough road," Rank said. 

We drove three miles until we came to a country store. 

"He lives near this store," Rank said. "I'll go in and ask directions." 

I heard the merchant tell Rank he couldn't drive to the house, 
that he would have to climb a path to the top of the ridge and go 
down into the hollow beyond the ridge. 

"That's all right," Rank told the merchant. "I don't mind if I can 
get a man to work." 

"Work?" the merchant said excitedly; then he laughed. 



238 Jesse Stuart 

"He'll drive a team, won't he?" Rank asked. 

"Yep, I suppose," he said. Then he showed us the path across the 
mountain. "Leave your car parked here. Follow that path and it 
will take you to George Tussie's." 

We climbed a path almost too steep for a horse to climb. When 
we reached the ridge, we rested a bit and mopped sweat from our 
brows with soggy handkerchiefs. 

"Wonder how he ever got his furniture over this mountain ?" Rank 
said. 

"Must've carried it," I said. 

We walked a mile or more down the mountain path before we 
reached a little one-room shack made of tiny poles. Cracks between 
the tiny logs weren't daubed; there was a field-stone chimney at the 
end of the shack not quite as high as the roof. There was one door 
and one hole cut for a window. Three hound-dogs ran out and barked 
at us. 

"Hello," Rank called; we didn't go too close to the shack for fear 
of the hounds. 

A tall man came to the door, bareheaded and shirtless. His pants 
were fastened around 'im with bark. 

"Are you Mr. Tussie?" Rank asked. 

"Yep, I'm George Tussie," he said, gruffly. 

A tall, slender woman, in a dirty dress and with uncombed stringy 
hair, came to the door and stood beside George. She looked forty 
years younger than George. And two small children came to the 
window; one looked four, the other three or younger. 

"Our county agent told me that you wanted work," Rank said. 
"I've come to see if I could get you." 

"What kind of work?" George asked. 

"Farm work. Driving a mule team. Not any hard work to it." 

"Sounds good," George said. 

"I pay good wages for a farmer," Rank said. "I'll give you a chance." 

"But I'm a-patchin' here," George said, pointing to a clearing of 
about a half acre behind the cabin and another spot somewhat less 
across the creek on a steep bluff. 

"Is that all you've got planted?" Rank asked him, as he eyed the 
sprouts higher than the corn. 

"That's enough to tend with a hoe," he said. 

"Don't you have a mule?" Rank asked. 



Ran\ Hester's Hired Help 239 

"Don't have a mule, cow, hog, ner a chicken," George said. "But 
I have three good hounds." 

"Ask 'im how much he pays, Uncle George," the girl said. 

"I'll pay you three dollars a day, furnish you a house, a cow, and 
all the vegetables you want," Rank said, before George had time to 
relay the girl's question. 

"Ask 'im how close we'd be to town, Uncle George?" the girl asked 
George to ask Rank. 

"Five miles from Dartmouth, seven miles from Greenwood, and a 
hard road to each from my farm," Rank answered her instead of 
waiting for George to ask the same question. 

"Tell the man we'll take it, Uncle George," she said. 

"But what'll I do with my hounds, Viddie?" George said. "And 
how'll we get moved outten here?" 

"Bring your hounds," Rank told them. "You'll have to keep 'em 
tied. I'll help you move. I need a man to drive a team that's been 
idle all spring." 

"Tell 'im we'll go, Uncle George," Viddie said. 

"We'll go," George said quickly. 

"I'll be here tomorrow to move you," Rank said. "I'll bring a mule 
and a sled in my truck. We'll sled your furniture over the mountain 
to the truck." 

"Is the mule a sure-footed brute?" George asked. 

"Think he'll be able to hold going up or down this mountain," Rank 
said. 

"Better bring ropes and a couple of men," George said. "Haf to tie 
ropes to the sled to let it down the mountain." 

"I'll do that," Rank said. 

"I'll tell you it's hard to get help," Rank said, as we drove back. 
"But it'll pay me to make a few sacrifices to get an extra man." 

I wondered if Viddie was George's wife since she called him Uncle 
George. 

Last year Rank Hester wouldn't have done this, I thought. I won- 
dered if it would pay him. But Rank was one of the six "Master 
Farmers" in our state. He couldn't stand to see weeds growing in 
anything; he couldn't stand to see a vegetable go to waste. And if 
there was a man left to work in the county, Rank would find him. 

Next morning, before daylight, Rank, Bill Blevins, and I loaded 
a mule and small sled into the truck. We took about a hundred feet 



240 J ESSE Stuart 

of inch rope and we were off to move George Tussie. When we 
reached the shack with our mule, sled, and ropes, George and Viddie 
had just got out of bed. We'd come more than twenty miles to get 
them. And it was slow going to bring the mule over the steep moun- 
tain. We took their stove, dishes, and few old homemade paintless 
pieces of furniture in two loads across the mountain. George Tussie, 
Bill Blevins, and I each held a rope and pulled back to keep the sled 
from sliding down on the mule's heels as we went down the mountain 
while Rank drove the mule. The last load, George called his hounds. 
They ran through the brush, cold-trailing rabbits not far from us while 
Viddie walked behind, carrying the smaller child, the larger follow- 
ing her. 

Midafternoon we had George Tussie, family, hounds, and furniture 
in a small cottage on Rank's big farm. Bill Blevins and I went back 
to work while Rank helped George and Viddie get their furniture set 
up, while he brought them a cow and showed them the vegetable fields. 
He took George to the mule barn and showed him his team. 

Next morning when I saw George on the cultivator plowing sugar 
corn, he was dressed in brand new overalls, a clean blue workshirt and 
new work shoes and socks. I knew Rank wouldn't let a man work 
barefooted and shirtless and with his overalls tied up with bark. I 
wondered how he'd get along on the cultivator, for no doubt he'd never 
used a cultivator before. But Rank would show him as he'd shown 
the rest of us when we went to work for him. Rank would see to 
that. He would watch everything and everybody and all of the work, 
for this was one year the nation was calling for each farmer to produce 
more food, and Rank would do his best to do it. If the nation asked 
each farmer to raise twenty per cent more of this or that, Rank would 
plant thirty per cent more, so he'd be sure. Rank had never gone to 
college to study agriculture but he studied every spare minute he had. 
And he learned by trial and error, and men from colleges and uni- 
versities came to Rank's farm and brought students to observe his 
farming. 

I was pulling suckers from the tomatoes when George Tussie's 
three hounds ran a rabbit by sight over the cabbage rows into the 
tomato field. I yelled at them, threw clods of dirt to stop them, but 
they were nipping at the rabbit's heels. I couldn't stop the hounds; 
they ran among the tomatoes, flattening stakes and plants to the 
ground. They cut a swath of destruction the entire length of the 



Ran\ Hesters Hired Help 241 

field. I ran after them with a tomato stake but couldn't get near one. 
Then I hurried to the house to tell Rank. He came, looked at the 
tomatoes; then he went to the field to see George. That afternoon, 
George didn't drive the team. He helped Rank make a kennel for 
the hounds. Had I been running the farm, I would have put George 
Tussie off right then. But Rank wouldn't. He needed more men 
instead of sending one away. 

Each morning I saw Viddie pass the tomato field about eight o'clock. 
And in the afternoon about two or three o'clock, often four o'clock, 
I'd see her go back with an armload of items. I often wondered 
where she went and why she had to go every day to fetch a load. One 
morning Viddie came over where I was working. 
"Good mornin'," she said. 
"Good mornin'," I said. 

"Chick, I wonder if you could let me have a dollar until Rank pays 
Uncle George," she said. "When we moved, th' sled run over Uncle 
George's foot, and I haf to get medicine fer it." 

"I can let you have a dollar," I said. "But I helped let the sled 
down over the mountain; I worked beside George, and I didn't see 
the sled run over his foot. He didn't say anything about it then." 

"Uncle George never complains," she said. "You never know when 
anything happens to Uncle George." 
"Is he your uncle?" I asked as I gave her the dollar. 
"Yes, he's my uncle and he's my husband too," she said. 
"Are those your children?" I asked. 

"Yep, they're mine and Uncle George's," she said, taking the dollar 
and moving down the road toward Dartmouth. 

When she'd leave, I'd see the two small children playing around the 
yard. Often I'd seen them play until they went to sleep somewhere 
on the yard. Once they went to sleep under the shade tree, but the 
sun rose higher in the sky and beamed down on their faces, and I left 
my work and carried them under the shade. When I carried them, 
their dirty faces and bony bodies made me have a feeling of pity for 
them. And once I thought I'd tell Viddie to stay at home and take 
care of them since Rank hadn't done anything about it. But maybe 
Rank doesn't know it, I thought. I worked nearest to their cottage 
and I saw these things. 

I was over at one of the greenhouses pulling late tomato plants when 
Viddie came over hunting Rank. 



242 Jesse Stuart 

"Is Rank here, Chick?" she asked me, sticking her head in at the 
greenhouse door. 

"Right here I am, Viddie," he said. 

"I've come over to see you about the cow," she said. "I'd like fer 
you to take this cow back and let us have another'n." 

"What's wrong with the cow?" Rank asked. 

"She ain't no good 'r something," Viddie said. "She's jist about dry." 

"She's one of the best cows we have," Rank said. "She never has 
gone dry before." 

"She's jist a-strippin' now," Viddie said. 

Rank looked at Viddie; then he looked at me. I could see a troubled 
look came over his face. 

"Have you been milking her night and morning?" Rank asked. 

"We've missed several times," Viddie said. "Uncle George and I 
argue over who'll milk 'er. He gits contrary sometimes. Says he's 
got to git to the barn and git his team. And when he gits like that, 
I won't milk. I'll tell 'im it's his youngins same as mine that drinks 
the milk. And he drinks the milk same as I do — and he should haf 
to milk the cow." 

"I want that cow milked regularly," Rank said. "No wonder she's 
going dry. Any cow will go dry, I don't care how good she is, if you 
don't milk her." 

Rank went toward the cottage with Viddie. I wanted to tell him 
how Viddie left her children alone and went away every day. I 
thought perhaps Rank had seen her on the road since he drove one of 
the trucks hauling loads of vegetables to Dartmouth. And even George 
was losing time with the team when he had to go to the cottage and 
get his own dinner. I thought Rank ought to know these things. 

Next morning Viddie stopped again where I was working in the 
tomatoes. 

"Chick, I'd like to borrow five dollars this mornin'," she said. "I 
didn't have enough to pay fer the medicine fer Uncle George yes- 
terday." 

"I don't have five dollars," I said. 

"I'll take a dollar if you have it," she said. 

I let her have another dollar. 

"If I were you I wouldn't go off and leave my children alone,** I 
told her. "They went to sleep under the shade tree and the sun came 



Rank, Hester's Hired Help 243 

up and was beaming down in their faces. I went over there and 
moved 'em." 

"Sun won't hurt a youngin," she said. "Uncle George ain't fur 
away." 

"Sometimes he's two miles away," I said to Viddie, but she was 
hurrying down the road toward Dartmouth! 

That day Bill Blevins left the cabbage and came over where I was 
working. 

"Chick, I want to ask you something," he said. "Does George 
Tussie's wife ever hit you up for money?" 

'Twice," I said. "I let her have a dollar both times." 

"I've asked several of the fellows working here if she's been hittin' 
'em up for money since she's been after me a dozen times," he said. 
"From all I can learn she's begged money from every worker on this 
farm!" 

"They let one of Rank's best cows go dry," I said. 

"Rank didn't let 'er have another one," Bill said. "I heard her beg- 
ging Rank. 'You're a rich man, Rank,' she said to 'im over there by 
the garage. 'You have plenty of cows. You get people on your farm 
and you try to squeeze 'em.' George worked well at first but now 
he's started takin' days of! and sleepin' late o' mornings." 

Bill Blevins hadn't more than left when I saw George Tussie's hounds 
at the heels of another rabbit making toward the tomatoes. I yelled, 
screamed, threw rocks and clods, but I couldn't stop 'em. I let them 
run the rabbit among the ripe tomatoes until I went home and got my 
shotgun. I wasn't mad but I was tired of such foolishness. They'd 
already destroyed bushels of tomatoes, and I was determined to put 
a stop to it. I cracked down on one and left him kicking. I cracked 
down on the second and hit him. He ran reeling toward the cottage. 

Then I went over to Rank's to tell 'im what I'd done. 

"See that truck load of tomatoes," Rank said, when I told him. 

"Yes," I said. "Where are you taking them?" 

"I had to bring 'em back," Rank said. "I didn't smell any coal oil 
on 'em this morning when I left for Dartmouth. Somebody went to 
the shed last night and poured kerosene on my tomatoes. I hauled 
them to Dartmouth and had to bring 'em back. First time anything 
like that's ever happened here." 
"More'll happen since I've killed George's hound," I said. 



244 Jesse Stuart 

"I guess it would've been better if I'd let 'em have another cow to 
milk dry," Rank said. "They are living better than they have ever 
lived in their lives; yet they call me a 'rich man' and try to get more. 
Every merchant in Dartmouth knows that Viddie. She's been beg- 
ging from them, telling 'em that I won't pay George, her husband, 
and she has to beg something to eat. She's not ruined me, but she's 
hurt me. It'll take a lot of explainin' to make things right again." 

"I guess you know she's been begging from all your workers?" 

"Not until this morning," Rank said. "It was hard for me to believe 
until I reached Dartmouth and found my tomatoes saturated with 
kerosene. I'll believe anything now. She's even begged on the streets; 
she's begged all over Dartmouth from everybody — telling them that 
they live on my place, that I give them a dry cow to milk, that I owe 
her husband and won't pay 'im." 

"What are you going to do with 'em?" 

"Move 'em back to the foot of the mountain in the morning." 

"Remember, I've killed George Tussie's hound," I said. 

"Do you reckon he'll do anything about it?" 

"He wouldn't be a hill man if he didn't," I said. 

"How do hill men fight back?" Rank asked. "Will he want pay 
for the hound?" 

"He'll fight with fire," I said. 

"Had we better watch the houses, barns, toolsheds, garage, and 
greenhouses tonight?" 

"We had," I said. 

I was watching the dairy barn that night when I saw a flame burst 
from the Tussie cottage. It had just begun to leap high when I reached 
the scene. 

"You set that fire, George Tussie," I said as I saw all their furniture 
carried a hundred yards from the cottage. "I can smell the kerosene." 

"It ketched on fire from the flue," Viddie said with surprise, since 
I'd reached the fire just as it started. 

The flames leaped over the cottage which had been showered with 
kerosene. 

"Viddie, you must know where I keep kerosene for my tractors," 
Rank said almost out of breath. "You fixed the truckload of tomatoes 
I left in the shed last night. I'd better let you've had another cow." 

"You killed two of my hounds," George said. "Wouldn't have 
taken this farm and all's on hit for them 'possum hounds." 



Ranf^ Hesters Hired Help 245 

Now all the workers who were on guard were getting to the fire. 

"Go get the truck, Bill," Rank said. 

While Bill Blevins went to the garage after a truck, we watched 
the cottage fall into an ash heap. 

"We're taking you and your family back to the foot of the moun- 
tain tonight, George," Rank said. "And sure as there's a sky above 
us, sure as there are laws in this state, I intend to prosecute you to 
the limit." 

"Ye hepped us over the mountain, why can't ye hep us back?" 
George said. 

"He's a-goin' to make ye tote our house plunder back over the 
mountain, Uncle George," Viddie said. 

"I sure am," Rank said. "You're getting off easy." 

We loaded the furniture, one hound, and George Tussie, and fam- 
ily on the truck. Rank drove away from the heap of embers with Bill 
Blevins and me sitting on the seat beside him. 



INDIAN SONGS 

Alice Henson Ernst 

MORNING SONG 
(Makah) 

My grandmother is the sun. . . . 

(Lay your hands on me, Grandmother, 

Lay your hands on Na-et-ka, who walks at dawn.) 

With hemlock boughs my body is made sweet; 

I go to bathe in the still pool you know well, 

Rising while earth is yet troubled and dark 

And your elder brother, the moon, walks in the sky — 

An old ghost, who has taken a house where people once lived — 

(Grandmother, the moon is dead, and ghosts fill me with fear.) 

But you are alive; you dance in your fierce strength; 

And I — I am woman now, like you. 

The sacred cedar is in my hand, 

I am hushed, like earth, awaiting your touch, 

Your warm throbbing fingers to clasp my hands. 

See: I raise them in prayer, singing my morning song, 

Trying to reach you, to draw you down into bone and flesh. 

(Grandmother, give me your strength, for I am afraid.) 

My hands are small for great tasks 

And the Makah woman is never still; 

Calm, strong hands I need for many tasks — 

(Give me your strength, Grandmother, give me your strength) : 

Strong hands for skinning Bo-quitch, the deer; 

For weaving the fine cedar mats my husband and sons will use 

(You have many sons, Grandmother; make my son strong too.) 

My father, Wa-lax, the Wolf, chief of the Cape-People, is strong, 

So is Kwadzai, mighty hunter of whales; 

(Grandmother, did he see me, turning in his canoe, when he led off 

in the chase? . . . 
It is fourteen days, and they do not return.) . . . 

Why do I walk here, long before dawn, troubled by ghosts 

While my playmates sleep ? Last week I played ring-tag in the sand— 

(Hold my hands, Grandmother, hold my hands.) 

246 



Indian Songs 247 

YA-IHL'S SONG TO THE NORTH WIND 
(Tlingit) 

Ah-hi-yoo. . . . 

Hi-ya-woe . . . woe . . . woe. . . . 

Wail, wind of the bitter breath, 

Wail over the lodge-poles of men; 

Wail for the hidden grief of man, lost here between two worlds; 

Woe . . . woe . . . woe, you scream 

And it is woe you bring, 

Blowing out from forbidden worlds, 

From icy caverns beneath old glaciers. 

From the third world you come, under the Country of Ghosts 
Who walk mutely, head downward, in that pallid world below earth; 
From the Place of the Damned; place of unutterable cold, you rise 
Holding your breath while the lost ones heap nameless griefs on your 

wide arms. 
Wailing, you leave there; wailing with undying pain that must gnaw 

evermore at your breast. 

It is the sound of your galloping white horses that men hear; 
The beat of their hard hooves, the swish of their flying manes, the 
scream of their frightened neigh; 

Your panting breath blows high the snow as you rush across mountains; 
In the little warm bays the spray flies before you, and men shudder at 
what you bring. 

The Little People, the Pigmy People far to north, who work always 

at forges, 
They tried to warm you as you passed, 
Blowing their fires at night till they flickered in sparkling flames high 

in the sky, 
But you rushed past, driven by that ancient grief. 

Blow, O Batl-et-lis, icy breath of the north; 

Creep into my heart; it is colder than you. 

I am your brother now, banished forever from rest. . . . 

Cha-it-s'l, Little-Brown-Partridge, she whom I loved, is dead. 




Two Women and Hog-Back Ridge 



Melvin Van den Bark 

MARY MATICKA became part of the Nebraska sand hills— that 
country of soft, yellow, shifting undulations that covers a 
heart-shaped fifth of the state like a sea, and is unknown and unsought 
by the toilers of the other fifths. 

Early in September she came down from Ainsworth, thirty-five miles 
to the north, in the open spring buggy of the mailman. They had 
driven south for six hours on a road which was for the most part a 
two-wheeled trail scarcely discernible in the thin prairie grass and only 
to be guessed at in the sand and sagebrush. 

The mailman slouched in the seat, his hat pulled down to his eyes, 
basking in the sun like a sand lizard, and licking and chewing the dry 
black hairs that fell over his lips. He said nothing. 

Mary did not mind him; she watched the sand whirling in circles 
from the wheels. Some of it fell on the tin-can-covered hubs with a 
pec\-pec\ sound. It was like water running through mountain streams, 
like the soft, chanting song of a smooth sea. 

Gossamerly she wove the scene of what she was leaving— South 
Omaha, where she had been born, raised, where her father worked in 
one of the packing houses eight hours a day, knocking beeves in the 
head with a sledge, where her mother packed sausages in little white 
pasteboard boxes with yellow labels, and where her four brothers 
worked, too. Eight and ten hours of it— in the killing house, where 
all the streams were thick, blood-red, the clouds clinging steam, all the 
odor suffocating like warm blood. One suffered all that until one 
became steeped in it. Then it didn't matter. 

But she had escaped to high school and had taken the normal- 
training course. She had her living to earn, being the daughter of 
packing-house laborers. There was stenography— a four-year course 

248 



Two Women and Hog-Back, Ridge 249 

of it. But she couldn't accept that: eight hours in a nine-by-twelve 
room in a tall building, with the clic^-clic^ of typing machines and 
the white glare of buildings through the windows. 

It wasn't exactly that she wanted to be a teacher more than anything 
else. But teaching meant escaping the hog-butcher town, the smell 
of warm blood, the people there, helpless and spiritless as the beasts 
they butchered. She wanted something else. She had always known 
that there was something else. When a little girl, she had once heard 
a friend of her father's tell of a place called Utah — what, she didn't 
remember. But it must have been something fine, she thought, like 
lots of stars and sky at night. It was that something that made her 
baptize her little doll Utah. Really it was more than a name. It was 
something faraway, something beautiful that would make her happy. 
. . . Sleeping, Mary thought, "This is Utah, this is Utah, really." 

There was the pec\-pec\ sound of the sand falling on the cans that 
covered the hubs to keep them free of the grit. She was sleeping, after 
a fashion; it was the being under a white glaring sun that made the 
sky a blinding mirror, a huge candescent light of the whole heavens, 
the man who would not talk, the tom-tom regularity of the wheels 
crunching the sand. 

It is like that in the hills. She was beginning to feel a part of that 
great unborn place, to be swallowed up, though she didn't know it, to 
become identified with it. 

There were ages of sleeping, half-awake, half-drugged with the heat. 

In the hot mist of noonday they approached Midvale. Before them 
swam the long low soddy which was the town — store, post office, 
cream station, house. In the billowy ocean of blinding yellow it was 
held by some magic a suspended purple block. At the foot of the hill 
lay the Calamus River, a ribbon strip of silver fringed with clumps of 
dusty cotton woods that twinkled, and rattled dry brownish-green 
leaves. 

They pulled up the hill slowly and with effort, the sand scratching, 
grinding, showering from the wheels into the buggy. When the top 
was reached, the horses stopped and the mailman climbed out. He 
pulled a limp mailsack from under the seat, shook it a little, dragged 
it into the soddy. 

Then Mary Maticka climbed out. She walked a few steps to the 
high point of the hill and looked out into the sea of yellow, green, 
lavender folds. 



250 Melvin Van den Bark 

Strangely, mysteriously, she seemed to find something of what she 
wanted: stillness and inaction, that for her was being; a sort of melting 
out into the nakedness of those hills, swaying there identified with its 
monotony and melancholy, in an ocean of dreams without a sound. 

The group of women in the doorway, who had come to trade and to 
get the mail, saw the large young woman with blue-black hair cropped 
to the nape of her neck, a loose-fitting orange jacket, a black skirt. 
They saw, too, her feet planted firmly, apart, as though she were 
holding her body from the wind. The women in the low dark door- 
way watched her. One said, "Did the board know she'd bobbed hair 
and was yellow-like?" And another, "What does she see?" 

And they looked steadily at Mary and they saw what she was facing. 
Far over the north, west and south was a heat-hazed, treeless region 
stretching in soft, round hills that faraway blurred into the white sky. 
Here and there were blots of cream-colored dunes in the gray-olive 
hills. The grass was burnt brown, the air hot and fanning an aroma of 
dry grass over the country that far and near had the monotony and the 
melancholy and something of the beauty and the fascination of the 
sea under an eternal sun. 

Mary stood still, inarticulate, her eyes like black pools into which 
the light sinks. She was as wooden then as though her soul were flying 
about the hills like a swallow. 

The women watched her and wondered curiously. They did not 
see the hills, but they saw Mary like a splash of strange new color, these 
wives of toilers who neither laugh nor see. And beyond her they 
saw the prairie — still prairie, excepting that it is now cut into checker- 
board sections and fenced here and there. On those squares of parched 
hills they have built their soddies, dugouts, half-soddies maybe, rarely 
a frame house. And all the toilers are struggling to dig a living out 
of the soil in this region which God never made for farming. Never 
made for farming; they feel that. But they are helpless and drugged 
dry-eyed and passionless with the soft hills and the soft low winds that 
never die. Never do they whimper, nor ever wonder about other lands 
from which some of them came. They ask nothing, nothing except 
that all who venture in become sand-hillers. 

Finally Mary turned and walked to the soddy. The women stepped 
a little back and she entered. 

"You are Mrs. Brindly?" she asked one woman. 

"Yes," the woman said. "And you're Mary Maticka." A little girl 



Two Women and Hog-Bac\ Ridge 251 

dressed in a faded and thin blue calico slip, whose hair was yellow and 
thin, whose legs were bare and dirty, was tugging at a fold in the 
woman's skirt. "We ken go over to Mr. Lange's now. The school- 
mams always board there. And he ken sign your contract. He ain't 
signed yet, is he?" 

"No," said Mary. 

"You must be tired," Mrs. Brindly said. 

"Not very, really," Mary answered. 

They went out the low door and over to a lumber wagon. A young 
man, tanned brown as coffee, jumped from the seat and took Mary 
Maticka's bag without saying a word. 

"This is my son John. He's got your things in here. You paid the 
mailman ?" 

John Brindly sat on a board across the front of the wagon. The 
women seated themselves in the spring seat which had been moved 
to the center for them. 

They thumped along over the two miles of hidden road among the 
brown warty hills to the soddy of the Langes. It was a small sod house 
with a curved roof; it looked like a huge, dry mud-pie bread loaf. 
On one side was a carpet patch of yellowish-green garden; on the 
other side was a low frame barn. One could smell the cabbage patch, 
the stable, the dry grass. A man was standing under the patched tin 
watershed that stuck out above the door like the peak of a cap. 

The three alighted and the man came up. He was stoop-shouldered 
and wore a greenish felt hat punched with diamond-shaped holes. His 
face was yellowish-brown like a dry cottonwood leaf. 

"Good afternoon," he said, looking at the horses and then into the 
wagon. 

"This is the new schoolmam, Mr. Lange." 

"Glad to know ya," he said. He put out his hand, which Mary took 
quickly and firmly. "Grub's hard scratching here, but we've boarded 
the schoolmams six terms now." He chuckled a little. "Hope you'll 
like it." 

"I want to, Mr. Lange," Mary said. 

Then he told her about the schoolteacher of the past year. She had 
come to the hills in a camp-wagon with her husband. The district 
hadn't a teacher yet, it seemed, and, when they learned that this woman 
had held a term in some place in Missouri, they got her a permit and 
hired her. But she had had twins at Christmas time, and they let her 



252 Melvin Van den Bark 

go. The year before that, he went on, they had a girl from Lincoln. 
But while playing a game at a party she sat on a married man's lap. 
"She was let go," he said, "seein' she was no model fer the district." 
They had a new schoolhouse now, a frame building, and they wanted 
things to go pert, the children to get learning, to show progress. His 
boy Roscoe was sixteen, and had been in the fifth reader for three 
terms. He wanted him to get out of that reader. He hoped, too, that 
the new schoolmam was sensible. 

Then Mary met Mrs. Lange and the three Lange boys and the two 
Lange girls, one of whom was called Judy. Mrs. Lange was tall, thin, 
starved-looking. Her eyes were two black caverns, black as though 
they were circled with paint. Her cheeks were hollow. Her whole 
face had something of the mockery, the bitterness of an inscrutable 
gargoyle. It was hideous, yet fascinating. One expected a voice from 
her belly, deep and empty, and words inarticulate, grunted. 

Mrs. Lange at first saw Mary indifferently, unseeing almost. When 
she looked up, her head swung slowly from side to side with her 
breathing. Then her eyes became fixed on Mary, frightened as though 
this young woman were filling the whole soddy and pressing against 
her, going to strike her, pushing her into the wall. Then there was a 
quick, faint lighting in Mrs. Lange's face — a sort of recognition. But 
it as soon went out. 

Mary was to share a room with Judy — a narrow room, one of the 
partitioned-off ends of the house. It was lighted by a small four-paned 
window which could be lowered only halfway. The walls were plas- 
tered with gumbo, a flat-grey, clay plaster dug up a few feet below the 
sand on the place. In one corner was a low, knobbed bed, painted a 
dark heavy green and covered with a blue, star-pattern quilt. There 
was an old dresser at one end of the room, and red paper hearts, chil- 
dren's valentines made at school, were stuck on the mirror's edge. The 
room had a simplicity, and a crudity that one finds in the homes of 
some peasants. There was a roughness, and an easy comfort like an 
old ballad in it all. The greys and greens and blues of the room were 
of the earth itself. 

Mary threw her orange coat on the bed. Then she went into the 
kitchen. Mrs. Lange was taking a piece of black paper the size of a 
postcard from a package. She put it into a saucer, covered it with 
water, and set it between a myrtle tree and a cactus plant in the deep 



Two Women and Hog-Bac\ Ridge 253 

window sill. This paper would attract and poison flies. Then she 
wiped her hands on the underside of her dark apron. 

"I ain't spread much . . . Miss Maticka," said Mrs. Lange. She spoke 
low, with a drawl. With her cooking spoon she made big circles in 
the pot of cabbage soup she had on the stove. There would be that, 
baked squash, boiled potatoes, and fried pork for supper. 

"You may call me Mary, Mrs. Lange." Mary took a chair by the 
kitchen table. 

"We're used to callin' the other schoolmams so. I hope you'll like 
it here. It's different from most places. Some like it; but some don't. 
Seems as like it holds you though." 

"It is something of a world by itself, isn't it? Shut in by the chains 
of hills that bubble into each other like waves in the sea. Huge, golden, 
round waves. . . ." Mary looked out the white oblong of the doorway. 
"You like living here?" 

"No, not always. It's hard grubbin', as the menfolk say. We've some 
garden — that's the only green. But a garden one year is a blowout the 
next. . . . Yes, it is something like a sea," said this old-looking woman 
who could never have been young. "But I don't often get time or 
feelin' to think like that." 

"A blowout?" 

"A witch's pot — hollowed, useless hole in the hills — blown that way. 
The wind is forever changing the hills, like waves. God didn't make 
this fer farmin', Henry says. He would leave, and yet he won't. And 
nothin' much ever comes or happens here. We're swallowed-like. . . . 
Like the sea . . . yes." 

After the school day, Mary would write the next day's assignments 
and exercises on the blackboard and would change the water in the 
jar that held the yellow-thimbles or grasses she picked or was given. 
Sometimes after school she would read from the books sent in a chest 
to the district by the State's Traveling Library Society. 

All this was very much as a schoolteacher should be : the exercises on 
the board, the yellow-thimbles in the quart fruit jars, the books from 
the traveling library. All that was very well. But that wasn't all. 
Schoolteachers should not walk early, late, very late, on Hog-back 
Ridge, or any ridge for that matter. This long, humped hill, Hog-back 
Ridge, dominated the others, its smooth curve drew a longer line 
across the sky. It was the only one that was named in the country 
thereabouts. It was of looser sand, more worthless, and would give 



254 Melvin Van den Bark 

root to neither grass nor weeds. The cattle never nosed it. It was a 
bully among the other hills. No, one shouldn't stride it like a pirate. 

But all the sand-hillers about became used to the figure of the young 
woman whipped by the wind ... the orange jacket like a still flame, 
the black skirt. And the sand-hillers in the district soon saw that she 
was different, that she wasn't "regular" like a schoolteacher is expected 
to be. It might have been the orange jacket she wore, full, and bright 
as a torch, or the black hair cut short, with a crescent of steel-blue when 
the light fell on it. 

More than once Mrs. Lange in her doorway saw Mary Maticka stand 
on the hills that were like soft silver in the moonlight. And at their 
base along the dry creek bed were clumps of cottonwoods, dark and 
somber. When the branches stirred, the bright light danced on the 
ground, making lacy patterns of the moonlight. There was a still- 
ness like before creation. It would be broken only by a voice in a 
faraway cup of the hills calling to cattle. The echo would fly about 
. . . farther and farther away. 

Sometimes Mary Maticka would stand for half an hour, sometimes 
much longer, on the highest part of Hog-back Ridge. And Mrs. Lange, 
pitting chokecherries, would look at that dark figure against the sky 
until her eyes burned. She would put her hands on the door plank 
on which she sat, and thrust her head forward. She looked hungry. 
She would wipe her hands across her eyes and the purple juice would 
make her eyes burn the more. 

Once little Judy, thin and elfin, came straying about the corner. 

"What er ya lookin' at, Ma?" she asked. 

The mother turned to the child who was squatted beside her, said 
nothing, stretched forward again. 

"Ain't she queer? But she ain't one bit aferd, she toP me. Old 
Lady Brindly marked it was the beads she carries in 'er pockets, saved 
'er from bein' f erd. Do ya know 'bout that, Ma ? . . . She carries brown 
beads and there's a little cross on 'em. Old Man Brindly says she's 
most like a witch walkin' over the hills all time o' night scared a 
nothin. And I told er' Old Man Brindly said he never let 'er in the 
district ag'in. And I told Old Brindly 'bout that black cross with the 
stuff on it like comes off matches— like fireflies. And Old Lady 
Brindly says 'John toP 'er Mary ain't God-feared, but's poetry.' Think 
a that, Ma." 

"Keep still, Judy," said Mrs. Lange. 



Two Women and Hog-Back^ Ridge 255 

"Ain't she queer, Ma?" asked the child. 

Mrs. Lange looked eager, hungry, as if something she had waited for 
a hundred years was within her vision, something she could breathe, 
something she could melt into. And there was, too, little Judy, sitting 
at her mother's side and bending to the hills; wondering, peering, 
strange little child. 

Then another figure arose on the hilltop. The two stood like black 
posts against the green sky above the silver hill. When they sat they 
made a large black tumbleweed against the skyline. Then Mrs. Lange 
knew that John Brindly was there, too. 

But generally she saw just the one dark line against night. And on 
black or stormy nights she could see no line, but she knew it was 
moving about, talking and singing on Hog-back Ridge, or perhaps 
silent and brooding in the cups among the hills. 

The rain would patter on the tin watershed above the door; it would 
rattle the watershed like faraway thunder. Mary would stay out; 
sometimes she waited until it stopped; then she would come in. 

"She's a fool ; that's what she is, a damn fool," Old Lange would say. 
"Runnin' 'round school nights. It's educatin' kids is 'er business. 
She's cheating the district. She ain't right, I tell you." 

Mrs. Lange would say nothing, her eyes and cheeks lost in the deep, 
dark shadows, her head like a white skull on a black curtain. From 
the dark corner she would face the lamp, which made a yellow circle 
like a big harvest moon on the red-and-white checkered tablecloth. 

Yes, indeed, Mary wasn't regular; she was queer. And Mr. Lange 
was afraid because she wasn't regular. He was afraid of her because 
she liked the place; she chased about the hills like the large spider-web 
balls of tumbleweed. 

And not only she; no, it wasn't only she. For Mr. Lange, too, some- 
thing of Mrs. Lange was always with her, as though her heart were 
being carried about in the pocket of Mary's loose-fitting orange jacket. 
Mary was like a floating, revealing spirit to his woman. It wasn't nat- 
ural, regular, this silent calling and pointing of the one, this silent 
answering and changing in the other. He was losing her, perhaps, 
losing his woman. And it was all through damned rotten nonsense. 
This Mary had no business drawing his woman with her. It was like 
having a dead woman moving about the house, an empty, sightless 
woman. 



256 Melvin Van den Bark 

Old Lange knew he'd do something about it. He could face this 
situation. He had others. He'd show the sand-hillers there that he'd 
do something about it. 

And so it was that with her beads, and her walking of nights, late, 
in the moonlight, under white stars, and in the storm, Mary Maticka 
began to be talked about. But the sand-hillers' talking about Mary 
wasn't enough. It wouldn't do much of anything, Lange thought. 
They didn't know about what was happening to his woman. They 
didn't see that. Their talking their way about Mary was all right. It 
would help, perhaps, in ousting her. And only ousting her could save 
his woman from this mooning, this strange acting, this foolishness. 

It was this way at the Langes' one day. Old Lange was leaning 
against the big range. "We can't have this talkin' 'bout Mary," he 
began. '"Tain't good fer 'er and 'tain't good fer us. 'Er runnin' out a 
stormy nights worse eri a coyote, and with that orange coat and horse- 
mane hair. . . . When I first seen 'er I says she's mighty peculiar eyes, 
all black like she didn't have any white — like a cat's at night. Eyes 
tells it." 

For a moment Mrs. Lange looked up from the cabbage she was cut- 
ting for kraut; then she bent to her cutting again. "She's finding 
things, perhaps — things we've all been wantin' — something here I've 
wanted, but forgot I wanted. I don't know. That's the reason her and 
John Brindly wander about — her alone mostly, but him always wantin' 
to be along. And it comes in the rain to her, too. I remember it's 
like my mother always used to get out in the rain — and I like it, too." 

She looked unseeing, vacantly, at the lamp on the table. 

"That's what I'm comin' to — just what I've been thinkin'. You 
watchin' her hungry-like — 'tain't good fer us, I say. She'd best go. 
She ain't settin' no model fer the kids, and youse gettin' that way. 
Youse like you wasn't in the house . . . damn 'er." 

He walked over to the hay burner, a boiler-like article which was 
stuffed with hay. He spat into it. Then he put it, inverted, on the 
open stove. The fire crackled up into the hay and clouds of white 
smoke spurted out with the heat. The smudge filled the room, like a 
heavy incense, clouded the smaller children who were playing under 
the table, and the pile of cow chips, another kind of sand-hiller's fuel, 
which was heaped high in the corner near the stove. The lamp glow 
was like a dull lemon-yellow moon in a blue-grey fog. 



Two Women and Hog-Back, Ridge 257 

Through the fog her voice came low, hollow, dead. "I like her and 
so do the children. Judy loves her specially. . . . That's poetry, they 
say, she sees in the hills. I wish I could see it. I'd be better here." 

And the other voice in the fog answered, "Yeah, ya like 'er fifteen a 
month, ya do. But I ain't goin' to put up with a schoolmam in my 
house gallivantin' in the moonlight and rain— spoonin' ya can bet, 
disgraceful-like out there, for fifteen or thirty." He coughed, choked 
with the smoke. 

"Damn this smoke. It's the damp holdin' it down." 

He opened the door, but the smoke was banked in by the thick white 
mist outside. 

"Dark as a well out," he said, "and her out in it gettin' wet. Even 
coyotes is in their holes nights like this. . . . I'll show that hussy some- 
thing. . . . Hussy is what she is." 

There was no answer from the other voice in the smoke fog. Old 
Lange took a paper and sat to the table. He drew the lamp nearer. 

Mrs. Lange called the three youngest children and went into the 
room where they and Mr. Lange slept. Soon after, he finished looking 
over a farm paper and followed them. 

It was much later when Mary Maticka felt her way into the kitchen 
and across to her room. She stumbled against nothing; she seemed 
to see in the night as in the day. But in the room she lit the lamp and 
adjusted the paper shade. There fell a round shower of light on the 
floor near the dresser. She dropped a string of brown beads into a 
drawer and began to pull off her clothes. 

"Is that you, Mary?" called Mr. Lange. 

There was no answer. 

She slipped into a full flannel gown and climbed over Judy into 
the bed. 

Well, Old Lange could wait for a chance to show his authority. His 
chance would come; a good one; it always had. 

The Friday night of the first week in November, Mary Maticka went 
with John Brindly in the spring wagon to a dance in the Richards' 
soddy. The night was lighted by an orange moon which draped the 
hills with mauve and silver veils, cool, perfumed. The tumbleweeds, 
big as cart wheels, rolled over the hills in slow chase. Once the wagon 
scared up a flock of prairie chickens that glistened in the moonlight 
like silver birds. They scudded a hundred feet ahead and settled in a 



258 Melvin Van den Bark 

thicket of sagebrush and soapweed. A rabbit kept jumping ahead of 
the wagon for a half mile. 
John began to sing an old song of the early sand-hillers. 

"Don't ask me my name, 

An old bachelor I am, 
But I'll tell all the same 

I've a very good plan; 
You'll find me out West 

On Goose Creek plain 
A starving to death 

On a government claim." 

Mary wondered about his being a man of the hills. She had won- 
dered a great deal about John. She went to parties like this one with 
him. He was a part of the hills, of course — a very human part, but 
forever and ever? What would he have been in the packing houses? 
Like them? Was he a product of the hills, an accident with them? 
Did he find in them a sort of completion of himself — a part that one 
couldn't phrase, or talk about to others, but a consummation that an- 
other might understand? 

Did the hills hold that something for John which was more than 
the cattle of his father's hills, more than the little patch of short, dried 
corn that rattled so hauntingly like something starved, lifeless, like a 
scarecrow; more than three meals a day, and a bed at night? Had he 
given something to the hills as she had ? And had he taken something 
from them as she had ? Something one couldn't really talk about, nor 
cry over, but be happy for ? 

He looked at Mary, who was crouched in the wagon seat. He sang 
again. 

"I've something sweet to tell you, 
The secret you must keep. 
Now remember when I tell it, 
I'm talking in my sleep." 

"Do you know that one, Mary? Like it?" he asked. 
Mary made no answer. 

John broke in again as though he were talking with her for the 
first time. 



Two Women and Hog-Back^ Ridge 259 

"I want to get out of here. I want to go to Wyoming where I can 
take more land and a better lot of it, too. There's nothing here, really. 
One can't even stir the sand or it becomes alive and blows away. I'm 
tired of it." 

"Nothing here?" 

"You— of course, and that's everything. But even we couldn't get 
on well here." 

"And there's nothing more— nothing that makes you bigger, happier, 
really glad?" 

"Well, I like that in you, Mary, and that's why. . . . Other girls 
don't see and feel that way. ... I suppose what you see in the hills I 
see in you. But gee whiz, Mary, it's you, not the hills. . . . The hills in 
you That's funny, isn't it ?" With soft laughter he ridiculed him- 
self. "But we can't die here, Mary." 

"Die ?" she repeated. "I'm just beginning to live." 

"Oh," said John. 

'Tes," Mary answered him. 

John looked at Mary veiled in soft dark shadows of the night and 
talking low and sweetly like a sleeper. There was nothing awake in 
Mary to which he could now appeal; it was gone. 

Mary knew now that John didn't smell the mint and dry grass of 
the hay flats, didn't hear the crunching of the sand on the road, didn't 
see the low-sailing birds scudding away like silent silver ships when 
the wagon rumbled past, didn't see the white, burning stars. 

John felt Mary's withdrawal. He didn't understand, but he felt it 
was final. He thought he would like to see a light in a window. He 
called to the team and slapped them on the flanks with the reins. They 
took up a trot, and the wagon rumbled on. 

Finally they reached the sod shanty of the Richards. It was two- 
roomed. The dance was in the larger, which was almost cleared. On 
the table, pushed to the corner, were two lamps which made huge 
shadows that doubled and doubled like wind-blown giants, that bent 
on the walls, and piles of cakes, sandwiches that were thick and from 
which hung edges of pink meat filling, and cups and saucers in towers 
a foot high. 

The room was hot, filled with a dozen or more perspiring women 
and girls, whose waists were drawn tight across full breasts. They sat 
in a row of chairs along one side of the room, waiting for the men and 
for the music. There were some men and boys in the room, coatless, 



260 Melvin Van den Bark 

clustered in a corner. Some were whispering, and a few would laugh 
twitteringly. But most of them were wide-eyed and silent like the 
women, and stared unseeing toward the piles of sandwiches and cups 
and saucers. 

There was a call for the groups outside. They came in and hung 
about the doorway. The fiddler sawed on his fiddle, screeching, scrap- 
ing, like a knife cleaning a pot. 

A yellow-haired young fellow mounted a chair, stooping to avoid the 
ceiling. Then he began, "All join hands en circle to the left." 

The dancing began, mechanically, not gladly. There was a shuffle, 
shuffle of feet, few laughs, serious faces. A haze of dust arose and hung 
about the floor as high as the knees of the dancers. The light played 
on it and made golden shafts. The shuffle, shuffle; the sawing, sawing, 
sawing, of the fiddle; the dull thudding of the fiddler's heel beating 
time. The dust rose to the low ceiling and the merrymakers' noses 
burned dry with it. 

It was a jolly evening for Mary, handsome, warm, whirling and 
whirling in the dust-built cloud that glistened like powdered gold. 

There were few pauses between dances. The merriment was run- 
ning in whirling circles, gay halos in bright dust. The dancers circled 
and circled and slowed in their circling only when there was a cherry- 
red flush in the east. 

About four o'clock that morning, Mary Maticka jumped down from 
the wagon seat and after a word of good-bye to John went into the 
Langes'. 

At seven she answered Mr. Lange's vigorous pounding on her door. 
Through breakfast he did not say a word to her. He scowled at his 
wife a great deal. But she came and went with griddle cakes, vacantly, 
as though moved by springs. 

When Mary was pushing her chair from the table he said, "I wouldn't 
give twenty-five cents for a schoolmam that'd go to them damn dances." 

He chuckled over saying that. He had 'em now. He'd rid the 
district and his house of this hussy, and his woman would be busy and 
decent as she used to be. A horsewhipping was what they needed. 
It'd stir them up, keep them straight in their harness. Anyway there'd 
be no more of this. He had them both now. 

Mary looked at him a moment, a little curiously, with eyes black 
and living with the whole of her being. All the light in the room was 



Two Women and Hog-Back^ Ridge 261 

sinking into her eyes. Mr. Lange zigzagged his chair on its rear legs. 
Mary said nothing and left. 

He brought a hard fist down on the table. The dishes clattered and 
rattled. Then the house was still. Mrs. Lange did not come in from 
the kitchen. But he meant business. He'd had enough of this Mary 
Maticka, plenty enough of her and of his mooning woman. 

In the school, before the arrival of any of the children, Mary was 
lifting the cover of her desk. She felt a shadow and turned to the 
door. Old Lange stood framed there, against the white glare of the 
sun. He threw a wad of paper at her desk. It fell on the floor before 
her. Mary's eyes stayed on the shadow. Old Lange saw them and his 
lips moved. He had cursed those eyes many times before. Now he 
cursed the eyes, the orange jacket, the black hair. Anyway he really 
had her now. He'd damn them and save his mooning woman. 

Mary saw him turn and hurry across the schoolyard. For a moment 
he stopped in the fireguard, a strip of upturned soil four feet wide that 
squared the schoolyard, then hurriedly made up the hill. He became 
smaller and smaller, sinking below the horizon like a little grey ship 
on the sea. 

She picked up the paper whidi was folded to the size of a postage 
stamp. Unfolding it, she read : 

"You been here long enough and you 
can hunt another boarding place. 

H. G. Lange." 

She put the note into her pocket. It burned there all morning. At 
noon she went to the Langes' soddy. Mrs. Lange was in a chair at the 
table; Mr. Lange was away. 

The woman turned her head as Mary entered. 

"I don't understand this, Mrs. Lange— this note, I mean." 

"Well, I understand," she said. "And you won't leave, I tell you. 
I understand; I've always understood." 

Mary stood with her hands thrust hard in the pockets of the orange 
jacket. She saw the woman's tousled hair, the tightened muscles in 
her face and arms, the red flame on one cheek; she heard the labored 
words; she knew that Mrs. Lange had been beaten and whipped by 
her man. The woman was one sore. 



262 Melvin Van den Bark 

"It ain't so much the dance as that cross with the watch-glow stuff 
on it, and your beads, and most of all you liking to walk witch-like on 
Hog-back Ridge when it's pitch dark, he says. They's stories out ain't 
true. . . . It's 'cause you're different, and like sunflowers . . . that's it. . . . 
And I like them . . . sunflowers ... I understand, I tell you. . . . But 
he's going to leave, if you don't go. And I says I'm leaving if you do. 
And he found this and said you're loose and crazy and ain't moral." 

She held out to Mary a yellow piece of paper. 

Dunes of my land; hot sands, metallic flashes — 
blind me out. Full, rich hills of yellow, gold, 
below blue sky. You tell me you are a child 
unborn, a land of a tomorrow. 

Fateful dunes of sand, cutting, churning, blinding, 
binding earth to sky and sky to earth. Crowding, 
capricious slaves of winds that weave corded 
fields, seas of molded waves. Living not a day; 
dancing to death with weather's play. 

"And he said that's dirty . . . child unborn, and you a schoolmam. 
. . . And I told him I like it . . . and it was poetry-like, contrary to rime 
and the like. . . . And he saw me on Hog-back Ridge last night, 
like you." 

"You walked on Hog-back Ridge?" 

"And he said first thing he knowed I'd have a John up there too, for 
all the sand-hill country to see. But I told him the hills is enough." 




Rooster Fight 



Wayne Gard 



CARS in an irregular line follow the crooked side road that cuts 
through sandy soil and leads into the oak woods. Custom- 
built limousines and battered lizzies — all are headed for the same 
destination. Drivers not familiar with the road watch for strips of 
white rag tied to fences and bushes. These simple markers show the 
way to the cocking main. 

The trail ends at a low building with cars parked in front, under 
the trees. The clubhouse is cheaply constructed, with board walls, a 
galvanized iron roof, and a dirt floor, for who knows when some new 
sheriff or prosecuting attorney may take a notion to get into the lime- 
light by trying to enforce the state law against cockfighting? 

It is still early, for Sunday morning, and the men stand about con- 
versing in small groups beneath the trees. Here a stockbroker and a 
man whose oil wells would sell for half a million rub shoulders with 
farmers in corduroy pants and leather jackets. A village barber in 
high-heeled cowboy boots jokes with a couple of doctors who have 
escaped telephone calls for a day. A teacher from a jerkwater college, 
here for the first time, reminds himself defensively that the Welsh used 
to hold cockfights in churchyards and that Henry the Eighth and 
George Washington and even Grover Cleveland were patrons of the 
sport. 

Some of the visitors have driven a hundred miles or more since day- 
break. They talk mostly about next Sunday's mains. These events 
are advertised by word of mouth ; seldom are they mentioned in news- 
paper sports pages. 

"We're going to have another little main up in the woods at Garland 
next Sunday," a genial breeder announces. "I hope you boys can 
come." 

263 



264 Wayne Gard 

"Gosh, I'd like to," someone answers, "but next Sunday I'm going 
up to Chickasha to see that big fight between Dallas and Oklahoma 
City. There's going to be fast shuffling and big money. Those Dallas 
birds ought to be in good shape; they're going to take 'em up by plane." 

"Guess I'll have to go up there too," another puts in. "I want to 
see that new clubhouse at Chickasha. They say it seats four or five 
hundred and has a second pit so that when a fight drags too long a 
new match can get going at the same time. It'll be a long drive, but 
what's two hundred miles when there's a good main at the other end?" 

Soon two handlers appear from the chicken houses, each with a game 
cock under his arm. The men then file into the clubhouse, a few 
stopping to take swigs from hip flasks. At the door each exchanges 
a dollar and a half for a tag with a number stamped on it. In some 
places, where law enforcement is more strict, each spectator is given a 
badge stating that he is a member of the club and that his dues are 
paid to date. Some of the patrons, accustomed to fifty-cent or dollar 
pits, crab a little at the price; but this main is expected to be unusually 
good. 

There will be sixteen matches today. Three hack fights between 
birds owned by some of the smaller breeders near-by will be preliminary 
to the thirteen-match main between a Corsicana breeder and one from 
Austin. As the spectators seat themselves on the three tiers of pine 
planks about the pit, the two handlers carry their birds into the ring, 
which is twenty-one feet across, and the referee follows. 

The pit has an earthen floor and a low canvas wall. It is well lighted 
from a skylight directly above, but before the main is ended it may 
be necessary to turn on the big electric lamps that hang from the rafters. 

The two game cocks, beautiful in their plumage of black and gold, 
peck eagerly at each other as the handlers hold them close to whet 
their appetite for blood. They have had no food this morning, and 
for two weeks have been penned up and deprived of female company. 
A week ago they were given workouts with chamois muffs on their 
spurs. Today their combs are trimmed closely, and they are heeled 
with steel gaffs. 

These bayonet-like weapons, two and a quarter inches long, convert 
into deadly duels what otherwise might be little more than barnyard 
scuffles. The gaffs are made by hand and cost twenty to twenty-five 
dollars a pair. Shorter gaffs are used in the North, while in some 
places, especially below the Rio Grande, cockers occasionally use an 



Rooster Fight 265 

extremely deadly type of gaff, called the slasher, which is sharpened 
on the sides as well as at the tip. 

Before each match starts, the referee weighs the cocks at the edge of 
the pit. Most of the birds balance the scales at five pounds or a little 
more. Customary rules stipulate that birds matched with each other 
must not vary more than two ounces in weight. 

Bets are shouted back and forth across the pit as the match is about 
to start. Most of the men risk only five or ten dollars on each of the 
hack fights; they are saving for the main. 

"Get ready," the referee calls; and the handlers place their birds on 
lines facing the center of the ring and about six feet from each other. 

"Pit your birds!" he says a few seconds later, watch in hand. The 
handlers let go their fowls, and the cocks rush at each other like demons, 
pecking and clawing and beating with their wings. "Watch 'em 
shuffle!" the fans shout from all sides. 

Soon one gaff makes a strike, and the cocks are entangled. "Handle," 
the referee calls, and the two men pull out the steel spur, untangle the 
birds, and take them back to the lines for the second pitting of the 
match. Both birds are panting from heat and excitement; the handlers 
blow on them to cool them off. The right wing of one cock is broken 
and bleeding, but he is still game. 

Again the two cocks rush at each other, half running, half flying. 
This time the Roundhead with the broken wing gets his gaff into his 
enemy. "He's got a rattle," backers of the stuck bird say hopelessly 
as he is carried back to the side of the pit. The gaff has gone through 
his back into his lungs, and he is coughing up blood. 

The handler wipes the bloody head with a wet cloth and holds a 
finger in the cock's beak to help him breathe, but most of the fight 
has gone out of him. In the next pitting he makes only feeble re- 
sistance, and in a few moments he is carried off dead. 

While the cocks are being heeled for the next match, most of the 
spectators step out for a breath of fresh air and maybe another swallow 
of rye. One corner of the building has a lunch counter where barbecue 
sandwiches and soft drinks are sold. In another is a crap table that 
is kept busy between matches. A wood-burning stove stands in the 
center of the floor, but it won't be needed today. The walls are bare 
except for a big sign that reads: "The rules of this club are the simple 
rules that govern the conduct of gentlemen everywhere." 

Soon the handlers come back with fresh birds, and the battles go 



266 Wayne Gard 

on — pitting after pitting, match after match. Sometimes two or three 
clinches are enough; other matches drag on for fifteen or twenty 
minutes. 

Joe's Corsicana cock loses the first match of the main, but then his 
luck turns and he begins winning. Soon the odds are in his favor. 
"Five to four on Joe's bird," two or three men shout at once, and the 
offers are taken quickly. "A hundred to sixty on Joe," yells another, 
made reckless by excitement and liquid warmth. 

"Come on, Joe!" Shouts rise from all sides as the cocks begin spar- 
ring or shuffling. "Hit 'im, Gus! Get in with both feet!" 

Sometimes the losing cock is game enough to fight until the last 
breath is gone. Sometimes he wearies slowly and is counted out. Not 
one runs away from the fight, though such conduct is not unknown. 
Two cocks in turn become coupled — receiving wounds in the back 
which paralyze their legs — but they fight on as best they can. Another 
is blinded and can't rush at his foe, but he still makes feathers fly when 
he gets within range. 

The most spectacular match ends suddenly when the two whirring 
birds flash at each other like lightning, colliding three feet in the air. 
When they hit the ground, one bird is dead. 

"I believe that's the highest I ever saw 'em fly," the referee comments 
as the birds are carried off. Cocks of English strain sometimes fly as 
high as four feet, but the Indian birds are foot fighters. Telling of 
unusual matches he has witnessed, the referee mentions a Kentucky 
fight in which both cocks became frightened and ran neck and neck 
about the pit, each trying to get away from the other. In another fight, 
the cocks knocked each other in the head simultaneously and both 
fell dying. 

Now there are no more odds. After winning the first match and 
then losing five straight, Gus begins to win again. He brings on 
heavier and quicker cocks until most of Joe's backers have no more 
money to offer. Except for an occasional yellow bird, the cocks look 
pretty much alike in their plumage of black, brown, and gold. Most 
of them are Roundheads or Whitehackles or Rangers. At the next 
main, there may be Redquills or Shawlnecks or Arkansas Travelers. 

Never a word is spoken against the decisions of the referee. He 
isn't called on for hairline judgments, but if he were, his word would 
go. He is one of the best-known breeders in the country. His birds 
have won at the big main at Orlando, Florida, and in many other 



Rooster Fight 267 

states. Right now he has in his pens one bird that has brought in 
more than $10,000. 

At last the odds turn in favor of the Austin birds. Gus has won five 
straight. He makes it six and, with his initial victory, wins the main. 
The cockers decide to fight the shake, and their handlers bring in some 
heavyweight birds. This last match drags a bit, but each cock fights 
gamely to win or die, exhibiting the valor and persistence which 
Themistocles intended to inspire in his soldiers when he stopped them 
to witness a cockfight as they marched against the Persians. 

In Texas as elsewhere, cockfighting has been suppressed by law — only 
to crop out again. Counting the little battles in the woods, the state 
probably has nearly a thousand mains in a single cocking season, which 
lasts from Thanksgiving until July 4. One county in Texas is said 
to have more than two hundred breeders of game cocks. 

The sport has spread over the whole country. Mains are held in the 
Sierras, along the Rio Grande, at Little Rock and Memphis, and even 
in New England. At least one has been fought on the roof of a New 
York skyscraper, and others are within easy range of Washington— 
though they are no longer patronized by Presidents, as in Jackson's 
day. The big main between the two Carolinas dates from colonial 
times. The industry supports several magazines, and fortunes are 
made by successful breeders. 

As in earlier days, many people condemn the sport as cruel; but 
cockers defend it as being no more barbarous than angling. Some 
fishermen, declares one patron of the pits, "think there is no greater 
sport than hanging a hook in the mouth of a black bass or a rainbow 
trout and watching him struggle to death in an effort to get away." 
If the fisherman answers that his prey is used as food, the cocker points 
to a group of Negroes who watch the coops from a discreet distance. 
"Why did these darkies come to the scene of battle, except to carry off 
the vanquished birds for Sunday dinners?" 

The mains vary in length, the more important ones running to 
twenty-one matches. Some are fought in woods pastures, with leafy 
branches for a roof and logs for seats. Others are held in tents or barns 
or in clubhouses above corner saloons. In one town a pit has been 
made in an abandoned hall of the Ku Klux Klan. But many special 
clubhouses have been constructed, and some of these are as luxurious 
as the royal cockpit at Whitehall Palace, where Queen Elizabeth and 



268 John Gould Fletcher 

the Stuarts watched the spirited shuffling and slashing of an earlier 
century. 

Those who like to bet can lose their money as quickly on cockfights 
as on horse races. In the big mains wagers sometimes go as high as 
$5,000 on a single match and $10,000 on the main. One may learn a 
great deal about judging cocks for speed and gameness, but the element 
of chance is always important. A cock down on his back may give a 
vicious slash and kill his opponent. Or one that looks like a winner 
may awkwardly cut his own throat. The experienced fan doesn't pay 
his bet until the birds are carried out. 



KANSAS CITY 

John Gould Fletcher 

Fired by a fierce electric energy, 

Caught from the prairie in a thunderous mood, 

Through rivers and long trails that woke the blood, 

We poised these pale towers here against the sky; 

Where men from rolling heights might yet descry 

Them, where for long beside the bluffs once stood 

Only a river-landing whence the flood 

Of ox-trains straggled west, the plains to try. 

So, not as symbol of a luck-fraught dream, 

Nor as a boast, where boasting is made vain, 

But as a gate where hopes grew sparse and single, 

The wheel-rut in the dust, the slow-curved stream, 

These towers stand; to mark for men again 

The far trail to the West, where thew and thong commingle. 




Four Eagle 

Elizabeth H. Middleton 



THE SUN rose red out of the ocean and began its daily round, 
lighting the land with long-spreading, searching fingers. It 
passed over the ridge of mountains to the Ohio and the broad rich- 
ness of the Mississippi Valley cornfields, and at last came to the 
Great Plains and the Fort Hunter Reservation. There it seemed to 
rise anew, leaping out of the dust blood-red, flooding the barren prairie 
with rich light, till it stood high in the clear blue of the sky, a white- 
hot ball too brilliant for the eye to look upon. It beat down on a small 
log house nestled in a hollow at the crest of a rise of ground, where an 
old man slept in the doorway. 

Four Eagle felt the sun's heat through his blanket and slowly opened 
his eyes and turned cautiously over on his side. He could see down 
to the river where layers of cool moist air pressed to its bosom like a 
veil, which lifted with the upward sweep of the sun. He sat up and 
rubbed his knees to ease the stiffness, and peered into the dim interior 
of the house to see if the children were still asleep. The mounds of 
their blankets lay quiet, only a slight rise and fall indicating their 
rhythmic breathing. He stood up to stretch. Yawning widely, he 
stepped out into the yard. 

His eyes, filmy with age, roamed over the expanse of plains. He 
thought, with a pang of sorrow, how much it had changed. He could 
still remember it as it had been in his father's day, in his own childhood. 
Then the grass had stood waist-deep in the coulees, rippling like waves 
of water in the steady wind; game was ripe for the taking; and smoke 
rose high from the lodges at daybreak. He remembered the buffalo 
that had roamed in herds so vast no man could see from one end of 
them to the other. Then the people had laughed and feasted. They 

269 



270 Elizabeth H. Middleton 

were plump and fat and well oiled with buffalo grease. Even the dogs 
were fat, and the puppies for the kettles were sweet and succulent as 
marrow. How — Oah! Oah! He sighed heavily. Desolation and 
drought and dust and barrenness and scorching, searing winds. He 
picked up his fan made of a turkey's wing and sat down in the door- 
way. A lean yellow bitch, her ribs showing like wire through the 
flesh, came up and licked his mocassins. Several puppies followed her, 
pulling at her dugs. 

Sitting there, in the bright peace of early morning, he thought about 
the three children, Harvey, Rosie, Lyle. He cringed at the white men's 
names his daughter had given them. Secretly, he had given them other 
names more fitting; but these he had never told to anyone, not even 
to the children. They had come to him in a dream, and now he turned 
them over in his mind, savoring their pleasant, secret sound. The 
three children were all the family that was left to him; all his wives 
were dead or had left him; even the daughter who had borne these 
children was dead. In the dim blue shadow of his age he held fast 
to the three, the last of his blood, determined that nothing should part 
them from him. 

After a while he heard soft stirring sounds and got up and went 
into the house. The children were tumbling out of their blankets, 
rubbing their eyes sleepily. He picked up the youngest, Lyle, and 
carried him outside where a bucket of cool water stood against the 
wall. Very gently he washed the child's face and dried it with a towel 
that hung on a nail. The yellow bitch came to lap the water in the 
pail and he kicked her away. She gave a shrill yelp and lay down to 
lick herself. Harvey came out, wincing in the strong light. His 
grandfather, watching him, thought how like he was to the straight 
young saplings that grew in the river bottoms. He had black eyes 
and the straight hair of his race; his nose was straight and long; his 
skin was the color of bronze. In the old days he would have been a 
fine hunter and a raider of enemy horses. Instead he must go to the 
white man's school, and his eyes were poor. The lids were red and 
swollen, and there were grains like coarse sand under them. Rosie 
followed her brother. She was like a young doe, a she-deer, supple, 
swift, alert. They were indeed fine children, and his pride in them 
was enormous. How unlike they were to the children of that Lizzie 
Bearcub who lived in the house down the coulee! Lizzie had married 
a black man. Her children had broad noses, and lips so thick they 



Fow Eagle 271 

curled over, and the hair on their heads was like the wool of a mountain 
sheep. Lizzie lived alone now, but she came often to Four Eagle's 
house. She was noisy and quarrelsome. She wanted to live with him. 
He, thinking of that black one she had had before, did not want her. 

The day grew hotter. Dancing waves of heat shimmered like steam 
from the ground. Across the river the red-and-brown slashed bluffs 
and gullies of the Bad Lands were obscure and misty. Lyle climbed 
onto his grandfather's lap and played with the old man's braids. With 
a small fat finger he traced the deepening lines of the seamed brown 
face. A deep sense of contentment filled Four Eagle. He was at peace 
on his own land, living in his own house free from interference, and 
his children were clustered like wild partridges about him. His old 
eyes loved the sight of them darting back and forth, and his ears de- 
lighted in their shrill voices. He closed his eyes happily and fanned 
himself. 

When he opened them again at a startled cry from Rosie, it was to 
see Lizzie Bearcub toiling up the hill, and he knew, with a desperate 
sinking sensation at the pit of his stomach, that there was no escape 
from her. Lyle slid off his lap and eased into the house. 

Lizzie stood before him, smiling. She had decked herself in a clean 
dress of some thin stuff with a bright pattern of flowers on it, and her 
hair, which was still black and glossy, was coiled neatly in the nape 
of her neck. Lizzie was enormous. Great rolls of fat encased her arms, 
and a slab of it hung like an apron on her belly. Her face quivered 
downwards into a cataract of chins, all of them dripping with sweat. 
Her smile broadened, and the odor of the dead came from her cav- 
ernous mouth where two or three foul snags stuck like posts in her 
gums. Four Eagle shuddered in distaste. Ugh! He liked fat women, 
but not this one. He pretended to be unaware of her presence for as 
long as possible. 

She opened the bag that hung over her arm. "I will cook you a fine 
dinner," she said. "Look, nice fat puppy." 

He half rose to his haunches and lifted his head like a hound, swal- 
lowing to be rid of the sudden rush of water in his mouth. Then he 
sat back again, his buttocks smacking the ground. 

"Go on home, you old hag," he said sternly. "You are less than 
nothing to me. Your dogs are lean." He cast an appreciative eye at 
the fat puppies in his own dooryard. "You are a bad cook besides, and 
you eat too much. Go home, and leave me in peace." 



272 Elizabeth H. Middleton 

She crossed her great arms. "Why do you always send me away? 
You have no other woman?" 

He returned no answer. 

"No, for no other woman would have you. Your braids are thin and 
grey, and there is no fire in you any more. You do nothing but sit in 
the doorway and sleep. But I will stay with you. I am a good cook, 
and I can keep your house clean." 

His eyes were like glass. "I want no woman, only the children." 

Her voice grew harsh. "I have worked for the white people, and 
I have learned many things about how to keep a house. You had 
better watch out. Have you so soon forgotten what happened to Old 
Rock?" 

"What has he to do with me?" 

"He had no woman. His house was not clean and his children went 
in rags. Where are those children now?" 

In the silence that followed he remembered how the children of Old 
Rock had been taken from him, placed in a school so that they never 
saw their home again, never felt the freedom of the endless plains and 
the touch of wind on their faces. It was the nurse who had done it, 
that dried-up thing who had no home of her own to tend to. She had 
put in a complaint, and then the agent had come with signed papers. 
Old Rock was helpless against them. Four Eagle stared in front of 
him. Surely, he thought, such a thing could not happen to himt He 
could feel Lizzie's eyes piercing his silence. 

"Well? Have you heard nothing then? How that thin one, that 
nurse, has spoken of you to the agent?" 

"You lie," he said. "It is not so." 

She shrugged. "I have heard of it. You will see." 

"I do not believe you. Go home. The sight of you offends me." 

Deep color flushed her dark cheeks. "Some day you will beg me 
to come. Then perhaps it will be too late, you old one. There are 
other men I can have, younger men, with fire in their blood." 

"Then why have you not taken them? Because none of them will 
have you. They have not forgotten that other one you had, nor is 
there a single one who would take his place in the bed beside you. Go 
now. I am done with you, nor do I ever wish to lay my eyes on you 
again." 

He closed his eyes and lapsed into silence, knowing that if he said 
no more, she would at last go home. He leaned back against the 



Four Eagle 273 

house, feeling the warmth of the logs on his back. The sun on his 
face was hot and clear, and the air pungent with the smell of sage. 

She purled angrily, muttering to herself. Then she closed her bag, 
and was gone. He could hear her retreating footsteps. The vague 
sense of pressure and discomfort that had oppressed him during her 
visit lifted. He felt light and free as a soaring hawk. He felt sure 
that what she had said was meant only to frighten him. The children 
who had been very quiet while the woman was there, began to laugh 
and chatter again. He spoke to them once, for the sheer pleasure of 
hearing them answer him. Then, as easily as a baby, he slipped into 
sleep. 

He was awakened by the soft swish of tires in the dust, and the 
squeak of a brake. His head jerked, and his eyes flew open to see a 
government car with two people in it. He recognized them instantly, 
with a tingle of fear slipping down his spine. One was the nurse, 
Miss Lovejoy. She was a small thin thing with harsh, faded red hair, 
and her nose, which was pink around the nostrils, twitched exactly 
like a rabbit's. The other, a tall erect man with the carriage of an 
army officer, was the agent. He bore himself as one in authority, 
which, indeed, he was, being second on the reservation only to the 
superintendent. The two of them slowly approached the old man. 

He forced a smile to his lips, said, "Hot, very hot," and picked up 
his turkey wing. He did not know what they had come for. He 
waited, leaving the first move to them. 

"Where's Harvey?" the nurse asked, her voice as thin as her body. 
"I want to see Harvey." 

Four Eagle waved his hand vaguely. "He is here." 

The agent cleared his throat. "Four Eagle, the superintendent has 
asked me to inspect your house. I am sorry. You will not mind?" 

The old man said nothing, and the agent's face grew slightly red. 
He ran a finger around his collar and glanced hastily at Miss Lovejoy. 

She spoke up without hesitation. "I have had to report you, Four 
Eagle. The children have been coming to school in torn clothes. 
Their faces are not washed, and they are too thin. Then Harvey's 
eyes are bad. He is supposed to report for treatment with the rest, but 
he does not come. We can't allow that. He is infectious. He must 
take his treatments." 



274 Elizabeth H. Middleton 

"He says you hurt him. He does not like it." He saw that her hands 
were harsh and red, with short blunt fingers. He thought how it 
would feel to have those hands on his eyes, turning back the lids, pour- 
ing on them a searing liquid that burned like fire. 

"The law says he must have the treatments." 

"He does not like it." 

The woman pushed past him rudely. "I haven't all day to argue 
with you. Come, Mr. Barnes, I want you to see this house. This is 
where these children have to live." 

A dull fury suffused Four Eagle. What right had these strange 
people to come into his house? What right had they to say how he 
should treat his own grandchildren? He stood in the doorway and 
watched them, glaring. The children, sensing drama, came up behind 
him and peered in, too. The nurse was darting about the single room, 
lifting blankets, rubbing her fingers over the table, prying into corners, 
lifting the lid of a box. 

"You see ?" she was saying to her companion. "What did I tell you ? 
Filthy, absolutely filthy!" 

She darted to the door, brushing past Four Eagle, and seized Rosie 
by the arm. "Look, Mr. Barnes. Just come and look at this child." 
Rosie writhed and squirmed in her grasp and at last wrenched free, 
but the woman only spun around, pouncing on Lyle like a cat. "Just 
look at him. See how he's dressed. Why, this man can't take care of 
children. It's even worse than I thought." Her red hand dove claw- 
like into the thick blackness of Lyle's head. "I knew it!" Her voice 
held a ring of triumph. "He has head lice. Why, Four Eagle, you're 
not caring for these children at all. They're as bad as Old Rock's 
family; even worse. I shall certainly put in a report to the superin- 
tendent immediately. You'll bear me out, Mr. Barnes?" 

The agent hesitated. "I wouldn't be too hasty, Eva. After all, you 
can't just butt into other people's affairs, especially these older Indians." 
Miss Lovejoy interrupted him, her thin lips held together in a tight 
line. "I shall see the superintendent personally about this. It will be 
far better to have these children put into a boarding school where they 
can be properly cared for." 

Four Eagle felt a sudden sickness within, a wave of nausea and a 
weakness in his belly. He doubled up like one in pain, and dropping 
his fan, held on to himself with both hands while he rocked back and 
forth on his heels. His voice rose in a piercing wail, and then followed 



Fomr Eagle 275 

a torrent of words. But the two who stared at him, astonished, under- 
stood not a word. On and on he went, punctuating his speech with 
gestures. The children stared at him in frank admiration. Finally 
they began to snicker and nudge one another. Rosie broke into open 
laughter. 

"What's he saying?" Miss Lovejoy's chin jutted out at a sharp 
angle from her scrawny neck. "What's he saying?" 

Rosie eyed her warily, backing safely away. "He says no one but a 
fool makes so much of a stir about so small a thing as a louse. He 
says" — only her head could be seen now- around the corner of the 
house — "he says, you are nothing but a dried-up old she-dog that can 
bring forth no young." She disappeared, and they could hear the 
shrill sound of her laughter. 

A dead silence followed, glaring and hot and blue from the bright- 
ness of the sun beating down on them. The little group were like 
statues. The nurse was the first to move. She turned on her heel and 
marched to the car. Her face was a mottled dark red color, and her 
lower lip was caught in her teeth. She climbed in, her slate-like eyes 
fixed on the dust ahead. The fingers of her hands twisted like snakes 
in her lap, and a single wisp of stiff red hair hung untidily in front of 
her face. The line of her back was as rigid as steel. 

The agent glanced briefly at Four Eagle, his eyes quizzical. He 
made a simple, eloquent gesture with his hands, throwing them out- 
wards, palms up. Then, with a little shrug, he, too, got into the car 
and started it down the hill. 

When they were gone, the sun seemed to go behind a cloud, though 
actually it was still shining the same as ever. Four Eagle sat down in 
the doorway again; but nothing was the same. Even the logs against 
his back were cold, and, shivering, he pulled a blanket about his 
shoulders. He could understand very well now why the old women 
pulled a shawl over their heads when someone died. He wished that 
he might do the same, and, safe in its seclusion, indulge his bleeding 
sorrow. 

He became aware of the children's eyes fastened on him. Lyle crept 
close. His hands were sticky from a piece of candy he had found. His 
grandfather took him on his lap and held him very close. His eyes 
filmed with tears, so that he saw the familiar outline of the child 
blurred, the head that was so hard and round, the long bold sweep of 
the nose, the slanted forehead. And this was the one they would take 



276 Elizabeth H. Middleton 

from him, to place him in a school. He would not then learn the ways 
of his own people. Aliens, strange ones, would have him in their 
charge, and they would turn him against his own grandfather. Four 
Eagle was old. The lust for battle had died in him. He felt only an 
aching, numbing pain. Against the new ways he could not fight, even 
if he chose. He knew well enough the power that dwelt in the nurse, 
the agent, the superintendent, above all in the White Father at Wash- 
ington, who would listen not to him, Four Eagle. Not even a whole 
tribe could win against them. How, then, a single man, and he an 
old one ? 

That night the children under their blankets were as soft-breathing 
logs, but the old man rose from his bed on the floor and stepped out- 
side. All about him was the vast peace of night, living stars that had 
looked down on his people and dwelt with them as friends for so 
many years, the river that was a dark line in the silvery dimness of 
night, the plains that he knew as he knew his own house. He had seen 
this same scene with delight many times, but this time it brought no 
peace. The cool dampness of the air did not ease the hotness of his 
forehead, nor could it quiet the sense of impending emptiness and 
desolation that weighed on him. 

Down the hill, nestled at the bottom of the coulee, was the house of 
Lizzie Bearcub. A light still burned, shining out through the polished 
glass of the windows. He turned his back on it and went into the 
house, and gathering Lyle into his arms, lay down again. Gradually 
the soft warmth of the child's body made him drowsy. He slept, 
dreaming of happier days, and when he woke it was to find the sun 
risen high in the sky. The mists on the river were gone. The plains 
glittered in burning heat, their image reflected in horizontal bands of 
waves like mirrors. He woke with a sensation of heavy oppressive- 
ness, but for a few minutes he could not remember the cause of it. 
Then abruptly it all came back, and the pain in his stomach returned 
so that he doubled up with it. The children, who had been awake 
already, stared at him, their eyes round. Like frightened wild things 
they crept close. 

"We won't go," they chorused in shrill defiance. "We won't let 
them take us away." 

But he, who was older and wiser than they and had seen many 
things, shook his head. He got up and prepared food, knowing all 
the time that "they" would come again. 



Fottr Eagle 277 

It was afternoon, and the white-hot sun blistered slowly on his west- 
ward way, when Four Eagle first spied the approaching cloud of dust 
that betokened the agent's car. He straightened his shoulders and 
waited their coming with dignity. The three children stood close to 
him. Lyle began to cry; Rosie's eyes snapped dangerously; Harvey, 
like his grandfather, maintained a silent stiff-backed dignity. 

The nurse got out of the car and came towards them, wearing a look 
of smug triumph as a woman wears a shawl. 

"Well," she said, even her voice expressing satisfaction, "I have talked 
with the superintendent. He quite agrees with us. We have come to 
tell you that you must have the children ready for us on Friday." 

Four Eagle felt Lyle's fingers tighten on his own, Harvey moved a 
step closer, and Rosie let out a little gasp. 

"We won't go to your old school," she cried. 

"I'm afraid you'll have to." Miss Lovejoy smiled mechanically. "We 
know what is best for you." 

"I won't, I won't!" Rosie stamped her foot, and then opened her 
mouth in a piercing wail. She seized her grandfather's hand. "Don't 
let them take me ; don't make me go." Then in a torrent of words in 
the Assiniboin, she begged and pleaded with him, pulling his hand, 
crying, flinging her arms wildly. 

The agent turned his head away, and showed a sudden intense in- 
terest in a pellet of dried mud just to the left of his boot. 

"Surely you know, Four Eagle, that we only mean to do well by the 
children. We don't want to deprive you of them. But we must think 
first of them, the younger generation. We do not blame you. We 
know you are an old man, that you have no woman with you to take 
care of things." 

"Woman?" The old man flung back his head like a horse brought 
up suddenly on a checkrein. "Does a woman then make such a dif- 
ference?" 

"Well . . ." 

"My daughter is dead, and my wives are all gone. What have I now 
to do with a woman?" He pulled all three of the children close in 
the slim shelter of his arms. "These are all that is left to me. Would 
you take them away?" 

The nurse nodded briskly. "Since you won't take care of them, yes." 

"No!" His voice rose in quavering defiance. "You shall not take 
them." 



278 Elizabeth H. Middleton 

"We have papers signed by the superintendent. We will come with 
the police, if necessary, and it won't do you any good to try and hide 
them. You might as well make up your mind to it right now." 

She turned abruptly and went back to the car. The agent followed 
her reluctantly, walking slowly with his head bent. 

"If only there were some other way. I don't like to do this. I've 
always felt we made a mistake with Old Rock." He shook his head 
sadly. 

"Wait." It was Four Eagle, calling after him. "You said something 
just now about a woman." 

"Yes?" 

"If I had a woman, would that make a difference?" 

Mr. Barnes glanced briefly at the nurse. "Why, yes, I suppose it 
would, provided she really cared for the children. But surely, Four 
Eagle . . ." 

"You think that I am too old, that no one will have me?" 

"No, no, not at all." 

"You come back on Friday." 

Without another word he turned into the house and waited until 
they had gone. He ignored the cries of the children, their questions 
that pelted him like stinging hail. He stood in the doorway a long 
time and gazed at the depressed beaten earth where the children were 
used to lie, at the blankets that covered them every night. He saw 
the tin cups that their lips had touched, strewn on the untidy table, 
the broom that stood in a corner and was never used. His eyes strayed 
to his own bed-place, a shallow depression in the earthen floor worn 
to the shape of his body. He kicked the blanket with his foot, thinking 
that this night he must make room for another, a great fat woman 
who had once laid herself down with a black man. 

Harvey stood at his shoulder. Now that the boy was out of the 
glaring sun, he was able to open his eyes. They were fastened on his 
grandfather. 

"What is this that you would do?" He spoke in Assiniboin. "Surely 
you would not bring that she-pig into this house?" 

"What would you have me do? Would you then rather that I sent 
you away from me to the white man's school?" 

"Oah! Oah! Is there no other way?" 

"There is no other way." He pried a loose log away in a corner, 
and dug out a small handful of coins. "Here, you Harvey. Go down 



Four Eagle 279 

to the town and find that Minnie-Runs-in-the-Grass. Tell her I want 
whiskey, very much whiskey, but be careful that you do it secretly. 
Bring it back to me. Tonight I get very drunk." 

He waited till the boy had gone, then turned to Rosie, who was 
watching him with quivering mouth and enormous black eyes. He 
bade her go out and invite his friends to a feast. 

To Lyle, who was the smallest, he gave the least important errand: 
"Run down to that Lizzie Bearcub's house, and tell her that I have 
sent for her. Tell her to roll up her blanket and pack her kettles, and 
to bring with her much food. If she brings too little, I will send her 
away again." 

When the children were gone, he sought his favorite spot by the 
door. His knees hurt, and there were vague pains in his back. He 
leaned against the doorway with a little sigh, and picked up his 
turkey-wing fan. Slowly he fanned himself, back and forth, back and 
forth, making a small breeze of the stifling air. His eyes filmed over 
as he squinted at the valley. His mind, buffeted and sore, retreated into 
the pleasant past when the river bottoms were black with moving 
buffalo like an undulating carpet, and young men on ponies rode 
naked among them. One there was — with satisfaction he recognized 
himself. He had just killed a young cow, and he held her tongue in 
his hand. He wheeled abruptly, digging his heels into the pony's 
flanks. His young wife was waiting for him at their lodge. She 
smiled when she saw him coming, and his children stood grouped 
about her skirts. There were three of them, two boys and a girl. He 
was just about to give the tongue to his wife, when she faded away, 
and where she had been standing there was an empty space. He 
opened his eyes to see Lizzie Bearcub smiling at him. He looked past 
her to where the three children stood together. 



BAYOU IDYL 

John L. Wtstbrook 

Since even men with two legs standing still 

Were always dancing in the glare of noon, 

I could not tell his hobble from the jerk 

Of distant heat-waves in the cotton rows. 

Yet I knew where to find him— by this oak. 

No man with two legs ever stopped to eat 

In shade so sparse it just diffused the sun 

And made the noon hotter if anything. 

At the first clang of the plantation bell 

A busy scurrying emptied the fields 

Till I saw through the stalks and waves of heat 

A khaki limp two cotton squares away 

Coming as fast as a wood peg could fumble 

Across the rows and clods. He crumpled down 

The way a snow man melts, and lay a minute 

In boneless weariness without a word. 

Then listlessly he ate his lunch, his face 

Whiter than usual. The dusty sweat 

Looked cold. "I get too tired sometimes," he said. 

"You don't know how tired I do get sometimes. 

You see, by working full speed every minute 

I can pick what the others do half trying. 

But there's one thing that everybody knows: 

I'll go on picking cotton through the years 

With half a dozen more two-legged crowds 

When these are all grown up and gone to town. 

I guess that's all I'm good for— picking cotton — 

Because they know I won't run off to town. 

Oh, I don't blame the others. I was like 

That once. When I was just a little boy 

I used to watch that pine hill east of here 

And dream how blue and clean the streets must be 

In towns the sun came from. There is, I thought, 

No cotton picking there. It is all peace. 

If I go east enough I shall find peace, 

280 



Bayou Idyl 281 

Where happy men live in a town like white 

Sky over pines. If I go east — So I 

Got up and drove all morning toward the sun 

And found it overhead in Birmingham. 

I worked three years with steel machines and lived 

Three years in grime and hate and garlic smells — 

Until a ten-ton bar fell on my leg. 

I didn't bring the leg back. I just left 

A smear of blue gangrene in Birmingham. 

I still can feel soft sometimes between 

The toes, though I do not have any toes. 

Maybe you know how that is — grass and sand, 

When I have just a wooden peg to feel with! 

Yet I can still feel clover, green — and cooler, 

On many a hot day with that leg I left 

In Birmingham than with the other leg. 

It does seem strange. But I'm not educated. 

I just pick cotton. It's not all I might 

Want life to be, and not just what I'd have 

If I could dream a life first and then live it. 

But there are things about it I would keep: 

The smell of plowed earth in the springtime, rain, 

And clean things growing. Yes, I know for sure 

I'd have these in the life I'd want to live 

Even if I dreamed it first. And I'm sure that 

The town I never found across the hill 

Would have oak leaves like these. But I don't dream now, 

Not anymore as I did once. I am 

Half sorry that I went to Birmingham, 

Since now I cannot watch that hill the sun 

Comes from, except to wonder sometimes how 

A sun can rise across the pines so clean 

Out of the grime and hate and garlic smells." 




Good-bye to Cap'm John 

S. S. Jield 

MY UNCLE, Cap'm John Bell, is a big man with steady eyes. He 
used to look rather silly in his golfing pants, those transparent 
linen tights that I dare to remember him in some fifteen years ago — a 
man who had built up a rugged deep-water towing and dredging busi- 
ness when New Orleans was still a mud flat. 

But he has given up the game of golf now. Now he is just rounding 
that big turn in the weary river, as he says, where the rest is an easy, 
wide swing down to salt water and the open sea. And so he sits a 
great deal of the time in the towing office now, looking out over the 
river, watching the querulous gulls with his distant eyes: the nearly 
deserted river since the city administration raised the docking fees to 
the level of the bonded indebtedness. Usually he is fiddling with 
something, a pencil or his watch chain, looking out at the mile of 
bending yellow river. He spends a lot of his time that way. 

But fifteen or twenty years ago he had a number of the fancy kind 
of friends, among whom he was compelled to move through a period 
of uncomfortable collars with the silent and half-smiling suspicion of 
a roughshod stranger caught in the middle of a minuet. 

Because fifteen or twenty years ago he had made enough money, 
the step into society was down, not up: a man who had generations 
of tugboats and train ferries and deep-sea barges named for him and 
for the women of his family, and with generations of river niggers in 
turn named for the boats. And since it is the women in a man's 
family who make a business of society, the godmothers of the barges 
managed it irrespective of his trade and thanks to its profit. 

He was saddled first with one of our city's carnival organizations, 
one of the better ones, and so I remember him also as a prince: a 
massive man in button shoes, with the edge of his long underwear 
showing beneath the elastic of his knee breeches. It was his only 

282 



Good-bye to Cap'm John 283 

carnival appearance; I was there with my mother to watch the night 
parade from his balcony when he dressed for that ball. "Filthy busi- 
ness," he said, glancing down at me once, tentative, alert; standing in 
massive and outlandish gravity, looking at himself. I was eleven. He 
always addressed me as one man to another, as a philosopher, say, to 
a scientific man, perhaps out of respect for my mother's brave hope 
or perhaps as his own subtle suggestion that I might continue my 
growing along masculine lines. "Not many of them seem to on your 
side of the family, Martha," he used to tell my mother. But standing 
there that night inspecting his silken bulk, we both were a little 
anxious. "Yes," he said. 

"Yes, sir," I said. 

"It's not the way I look. I look all right. But it's why I look this 
way." And he stared past himself in the big gold mirror. "I never 
wanted to get this high," he said. 

He took up golf as the natural and most hardy adjunct to the launch- 
ing of his family in society. 

Cap'm John was in society altogether for about four years. He could 
have stayed there had he wished. He could have steered a carnival 
float down Canal Street year after year with all the papal altitude of a 
ferryboat captain and with about as much variety, but he got out. He 
gave his golf sticks to a Negro named Hopper Bell and he went back 
to sit in the towing office or in the wheelhouse of a seagoing tug. 
"Where I belong," he said. He returned to his river and to himself 
on the day of his third golf tournament; on the day that Frohman 
died. Frohman was a Negro, too. 

It is not surprising that at fifty-five my uncle, Cap'm John, excelled 
at golf. Twenty years ago in New Orleans the game was played by 
a handful of elderly or ailing gentlemen who would attack the ground 
with the deliberation and the awkwardness and somewhat the swagger 
of small boys learning to chop wood, and my uncle was a larger man 
than most. It is less surprising that he should have excelled at the 
game than that he should have played it at all. Because he saw beyond 
that game; as though it were a bend in the river (and so it was), just 
as he saw beyond most things — himself, for instance. He used to con- 
fide in me in those days, and even then I must have known that he was 
seeing far beyond my thin legs and my eleven years, placing his con- 
fidences upon some later pinnacle to which I might one day climb or 



284 S. S. Field 

not climb. It made me walk straighter, with wider and more alert 
eyes. Like the thing he said one day about golf: "It is no game for 
you, you know," he said. "You look mighty neat today." 

"No, sir," I said. "Why? Yes, sir, my stocking. ..." 

"You should have one stocking coming down," he said. "With both 
your stockings up you'll be a poet. Because — " he said. "Golf is a 
circular path. It is for old men who have nowhere to go. Going, you 
know; that is the thing." 

"Yes, sir," I said, secretly loosening one of my pants buckles. 

"But few men think of going," he said, fiddling with the golf ball 
and looking off. ... I remember how he tried to tell me then about 
golf: about how the things a man does to excess are the measure of 
his soul, and how going was better than golf; how going holds some- 
thing finer than the safe little positiveness of the four walls of cir- 
cumstance, something better than the smallness, the immediacy of 
the shiny metal blades — the mashies and the niblicks whipped through 
the grass in pursuit of a little white ball, it also a sphere, resolving 
into an instant exaltation or despair. . . . "It is like the moon." He 
held up the golf ball. "With its little craters. Never play golf or 
pool ... or bridge," he said, "and your chances will be better. Fore." 

"Yes, sir," I said. He won his second golf tournament that summer. 

I was in the towing office early on the day that Frohman died. I 
had been promised a ride on the new Martha R. Bell and so both of 
my stockings were down by the time I had run from the streetcar to 
the docks and up the stairs. I found Cap'm John standing at the 
window watching the river. "Good morning, Cap'm," I said. I sat 
on the high stool, hoping he would notice my stockings. 

"Good morning," he said. He said it slowly. "I'm afraid we can't 
go today." My heart stopped for a sickening moment. "One of my 
niggers has been hurt," he said. "Another one. I guess we'll have 
to see what we can do." 

"Yes, sir," I said. "What happened to him?" 

"He was shot." 

I whistled. "Where was he shot? How did he get shot? Who 
shot him, Cap'm John ? What. ..." 

"I don't know," Cap'm John said. We were already descending 
the stairs without my noticing it. 

"Will he die?" I said. 



Good-bye to Cap'm John 285 

"I don't know," Cap'm John said. 

"When was he shot? Today, was he? This morning?" I had to 
run to keep up. We were going fast and both of my stockings were 
well down. "Who was it, Cap'm John ? Which one of them was it ?" 

"Frohman," Cap'm John said. "My caddy." That was when I 
remembered that the summer before, it had been Snag. 

Snag was a crippled Negro who had caddied for my uncle when 
he won his first golf tournament. Cap'm John had been fond of Snag. 
He was fond of all Negroes, and I remember how pleased both he 
and Snag would be over any golf shot the two of them contrived to 
make; it was as though Snag carrying the golf bag and handing the 
stick was half of the shot without which teeing the ball and driving 
it could not have had any meaning whatever, and Snag would scramble 
along behind Cap'm John, fast, with all the keys of a grand piano 
displayed in his face, saying, "Wham, Cap'm Jawn, suh! Yes, suh! 
Us set thatun down like a fo'bits bet. Wham!" all the way to the 
next shot. 

But Snag used to swim in the river. He believed it would help his 
undeveloped leg. He had a mongrel dog and the two of them would 
swim on warm mornings up at a great sweeping bend of levee and 
wilderness beyond the golf course. Sometimes when the current was 
gone the two of them would swim across. It was on an empty Sunday 
morning that Snag was killed. He hadn't seen the oil tanker when 
she came around the bend. They were out in the middle, then, just 
two black specks on the yellow vastness. Then the long blast came 
like a mighty trumpet. They said that the nigger must have mis- 
judged their swing. They were already well on the turn when they 
saw him and they said that they eased the wheel to straighten out and 
pass the nigger on starboard. They said that he must have just put 
it to a guess and he guessed wrong because they said that he had two- 
thirds of the river to swim in but that he turned back and so they put 
the wheel hard to starboard and then he turned back again — the two 
of them, the nigger and the dog, swimming back and forth each time 
in a shorter arc until they could see his face stretched like laughter 
in the sunshine with all the white teeth, or like a grimace of joyous 
surprise, recognition, and with men even running forward, waving 
from the swinging cliff (she was high, empty) and the long trumpet 
blast right up to the moment he was struck and they wasted the life 
preserver. He was struck by the great bulging side, nearly amidship, 



286 S. S. Field 

as the wall of steel swung gatelike and fast with the wheel hard over. 
They saw only the hand and the vanishing gleam of teeth and then 
nothing. And now it was Frohman. 

It was my first visit to a charity hospital. It must have been Cap'm 
John's first visit, too, for the following year he gave the Negroes a 
hospital of their own. "It's like the inside of a swill pot," Cap'm John 
said as we waited in the grimy hallway, and he began to curse them 
for a lot of unclean butchers. "I don't know that your mother would 
approve of this, and I can't say that I'd blame her. But then you may 
remember it; come along, then, here we go." 

I remember it. Frohman had the face, the nostrils, the eyes, the 
color of that central figure in most stained glass windows, after the 
sun has gone down. He was in a ward with unwashed floor and 
walls among a dozen other Negroes in beds, men and women whose 
dumb eyes followed us in hope. The white rolling irises of Frohman's 
eyes spoke first when he saw Cap'm John. Then his voice came, very 
thin now, with a kind of gasping of the light servility and the swagger 
and the old meaningless effusion. "Yes, suh, Cap'm Jawn, suh. Young 
Cap'm, suh. I jes had to lef you know . . . how I'm is, Cap'm Jawn. 
Account of how me and you was gwi wham that ball in that turment 
tomorrow. . . . Account of how me and you was gwi. ..." 

I remember the long black hand moving on the sheet. Then the 
doctor came. He seemed too young and thin to be a good doctor. 
He was explaining the case and drawing with a scalpel on the chart. 
His voice seemed insolent with gaiety, so near the lean gourd head 
and eyes of Frohman. I dared to look once more at those eyes that 
saw only Cap'm John. "Altogether negligible prospects," the doctor 
was saying and drawing. "A split bullet. You are familiar with the 
stem and blossom of the tube lily? The split bullet describes that 
lovely plant form within the intestines; here you have the stem and 
here you have the blossom forming. ..." I could feel Cap'm John 
looking inside of the man and waiting too long. When he spoke his 
voice was quiet and tightening like a warping hawser. 

"What are you?" he said. "The gardener? Get this boy moved 
into a private room. Get out of here and get me a doctor. Get me 
the head surgeon, not a florist!" And the doctor had somehow 
vanished. 

And so we stood there. It was as though Frohman and Cap'm John 
and I were each looking at a point somewhere within Frohman, and 



Good-bye to Cap'm John 287 

then it was as though the point, as we watched it, had quietly gone 
somewhere beyond Frohman and we watched it go, Frohman watching 
it too, and then our eyes stopped, Frohman's did, and Cap'm John's 
went on still further beyond that point which Frohman had recog- 
nized as the logical place to stop. Because the pain seemed to go out 
of Frohman's eyes. "Jes account of that turment tomorrow, Cap'm 
Jawn," he said. The shape of his head made me want to cry. "Ac- 
count of how me and you was gwi wham that ball tomorrow. ..." 
Cap'm John's eyes looked now at the new point, the Tomorrow of 
Frohman's voice, suspended somewhere in the sterile half-light above 
the bed where the thin profusion, the apologia in little thin strutful 
vowels, issued forth once more; and then it was as though the other 
point and this one had become the same and I saw that the corners 
of Cap'm John's mouth were down and the thin voice was saying, 
"You got to git mo' right wris' in there, Cap'm, and mind you don't 
lif you haid. ..." Then the pale irises rolled back. The pain on his 
face was like glory. "I ain't be cahyin yo' bag but us'll be pullin' for 
you, Cap'm Jawn. Me and ole Snag." He looked again, his teeth 
showing again. "But jes account of that turment, Cap'm Jawn ... I 
be thinking if all thing don't go right . . . some kind of lil sen'-over, 
Cap'm, when you wins that turment. . . . Like old Snag used to say, 
Wham, Cap'm Jawn, suh. . . ." Then I was watching the eyes again. 
"Wham, Cap'm Jawn. Wham, Cap'm. Wham, Ca~ . . . wham!" 
Then he was still looking, eagerly now, as though he were watching 
the flight of a ball, high and far, it too a sphere resolving into an 
instant exaltation or despair, but he no longer seemed to see. That is 
the way I remember it. 

I cried on the way out. Cap'm John put his arm around me and 
patted my shoulder. "That," Cap'm John said, "was death. Come 
along, now." 

And so that's how it came to be Hopper Bell's time. It was as if 
besides Cap'm John's sticks and his linen knickers (through which 
could be seen with infallible regularity, like an eccentricity in dress, 
the outline and even the patented seat arrangement of my uncle's 
underdrawers, until even his underdrawers became an incontrovertible 
public fact, an incident to recognition, along with his honesty, his 
button shoes, his size, and his job) — as if besides the sticks and the 
transparent tights, Cap'm John owned also a private stable of three 



288 S. S. Field 

Negroes concomitant to his golf and graded in seniority: Snag, Froh- 
man, Hopper Bell. And now it was Hopper Bell. 

And I must say this to Hopper Bell's ghost, wherever it is: that there 
would have been no cheap tin trophy won by our stable that day had 
Cap'm John known, as I knew, about the monstrous superstition among 
those Negroes. Because maybe one of them helped to cart the fur- 
rowed despair of Frohman to the hospital (they took him there in an 
ice-wagon) and maybe Frohman (he was delirious) had had a vision; 
I don't know. At any rate, in the lush harangue and babble of the 
caddy house that day, on the heels of Frohman's death, they knew 
that there would be three. And now it was Hopper Bell. 

He was a tall, thin-headed Negro, very black and quiet. He was 
beautiful, his face and his eyes and the angle of his long head which 
he carried to one side in a gentle manner and on the top of which he 
wore (with the pious placidity of a black young saint) a soiled, red 
bellhop's cap with brass buttons. 

But I will always remember Hopper Bell's face on that day that he 
caddied for my uncle's last golf tournament — the wild, agonized, up- 
gazing face with the mute velvet eyes. Perhaps it was most beautiful 
then; it has been stamped upon my mind in pain for such a long time. 
Because I was there that day of the third caddy and the third tourna- 
ment. I was there and I knew and I didn't stop them. Following 
along in the determined little coterie of my uncle and Negroes and 
friends all the way around the circular path, with my stockings down 
and panic in my mind, I knew and I didn't stop the tournament. I 
didn't say, "Cap'm John, excuse me, sir, but I must talk with you 
alone." I didn't say, "Cap'm John, sir, please. Do with me what you 
will. Kill me, hate me, do anything to me, but please don't finish this 
tournament." And maybe that is why his face has been stamped 
upon my mind in pain for so long. Hopper Bell's face. 

Because I was there that day, because I had to be there that day. I 
had to be with Cap'm John. Not on account of the tournament. On 
account of Frohman's death. It had bound me somehow to my uncle 
and I knew that I had to be with him, close to him that day and the 
next and the next until time and experience might slowly unite us 
again as child and man, restore our vast small world of interdependence 
which the death of a Negro had divided as with a wall of silence. 
Because his eyes were stronger than mine, Cap'm John's: seeing far 
out beyond that point where Frohman's eyes had stopped, and not 



Good-bye to Cap'm John 289 

coming back. And I had to have those eyes back, close to me again, 
to center now and then their warmth, their scrutiny, their puzzlement 
upon mine, and I wanted to hear once more the voice going beyond 
me — scouting out into the world of his experience and then returning 
to say, "Well what do you think of this, now?" or "What do you 
think of that?" And then we would be once more like two people 
necessary to each other. ... It has taken me so long to understand my 
first death, the death of Frohman. And now I wish that we were 
back the way we were, Cap'm John and I ; but we never can be. Too 
much has died; the wall of silence has gone too high. 

So I was there that day. I was alone in the sun outside the caddy 
house when I learned, when I heard their voices. I was unraveling 
the core of a golf ball and thinking about Frohman and wishing that 
my father too were alive to help me face fear and sadness and a world 
full of harder boys who were not a prey to their stockings, whose stock- 
ings had not become a conscious obsession of fear, a measure of cour- 
age or cowardice, a challenge or an admission. But mostly I was just 
miserable and unraveling rubber when I heard their voices, rich, gut- 
tural, quarrelsome, with the sourceless flow and uncontrol of bubbling 
mush. When I heard the first voice say, "Shure. Cahy that bag and 
sign your dead warran' ! That boy a fool to cahy that bag, man, shure." 

And the second voice: "Better be him dan me. 'Cause de Cap'm jest 
natchally figure to win dis turment one-up. Jes like it was writ down 
in de book, 'cause ain't de Cap'm dooze three-up and two to play in de 
first turment?" 

"And de tanker got ole Snag. Wham!" 

"And ain't de Cap'm dooze two-up and one to play in de second 
turment?" 

"And de split bullet found ole Frohman. Wham!" 

And then a third and a fourth voice together with the other two in 
soft, outrageous babbling, in ceaseless turmoil and harangue with the 
noise that irritable chickens make, the total, the absolute, the utter 
conviction of sound, "Ole hawd-haided boy. Shure, man, de Cap'm 
gwi be lookin' down Mister Ginny thoat on number eighteen green 
and then where is you at?" 

"An' didn' ole Frohman has that dream about passin' wid de dices 
three times, and didn' de dream book say mind out where you walks 
and git down on de number three?" 



290 S. S. Field 

"Cap'm gi'ing ole Frohman a fawty-dollar sen'-over. Boy, how come 
you don't gawn home and save de Cap'm money ?" And then Cap'm 
John's voice calling, and the swift silence within the caddy house. 

"Hopper? Where's my boy? Come on here, son, and bring my 
bag." 

He came out slowly, with the red bellhop's cap on his saint-Kke 
head, downlooking, miserable, as if he were sick, stopping once to 
kick something with his long thin foot. Then he said quietly, "Yas, 
suh, Cap'm. Here I'm is." Inside the caddy house the dark eyes with 
the pale china irises watched him go, like the eyes of animals in a cave. 

And so there was a gallery of Negroes too — a forlorn, downcast, 
stringy lot, following at a safe distance, not talking. 

I don't remember much about that game. We must have made a 
strange procession forging along with the deliberation of priests and 
acolytes, with Hopper Bell looking like a walking advertisement for 
a Georgia Springs hotel, and the trailing Negroes and big Cap'm John 
and Mr. Guernsey and the other Negro. 

I remember chasing along behind, running often and bumping into 
them as if I were blind, and being spoken to, and then I remember 
Hopper Bell's thin, agonized, up-gazing face beneath the red monkey 
cap watching the flight of the ball with rushing eyes, and then I was 
praying that Cap'm John would lose and it was the next to the last 
hole and then I thought that I would have to scream for them to stop 
and with my mouth already shaped for words and my eyes on the 
crucifixion of Hopper Bell's face and then Mr. Guernsey had teed his 
ball and was waggling his club and I couldn't scream. 

The rest isn't easy to tell, being a composite within an instant of all 
the terror, the recrimination, the shame that seems to have been child- 
hood : the instant when Cap'm John struck the ball with all the heave 
of a spike driver; the click that could have been the snapping of a 
camera within my mind; the slow instant of exaltation, of despair, 
when Hopper Bell squeezed his eyes beneath his long pale fingers and 
the eyes of the other Negroes rose and held and sank even as they 
began to walk away, spent, and when Mr. Guernsey turned to shake 
hands with Cap'm John (Mr. Guernsey had one ball out of bounds) 
and Cap'm John turned and Hopper Bell still held his eyes in his 
Christlike hand. 



Good-bye to Cap'm John 291 

"What's the matter with my boy?" Cap'm John said. It was late, 
nearly dark. There were only the five of us at the tee. "What's the 
matter with my boy ? What's the matter with you, son ? Won't some- 
body tell me what's the matter with my darky?" 

And then Hopper's voice, sudden, thin, gentle: "Nawsuh, Cap'm, 
suh. Ain't nothin'. Wham, Cap'm Jawn, suh. Wham, Cap'm!" on 
an ascending wire of sound. 

He thought that I was congratulating him, at first. At first he just 
thought that I had gone out of control, or maybe he thought that I 
was trying to fly. It was just that I had to say it then and so maybe 
I did run headlong into him, leap into him. He caught me rather 
handily. I remember his embarrassment and the touch of foolish mirth 
as if some ladies' lingerie had blown into his face and then I was tell- 
ing him and choking and we were sitting on the green mound and 
the others had walked away, leaving us alone in the mist that had 
begun to rise with evening. He listened — quiet, kind, massive. 

"Fear, you know," he said. "It is a very real thing. . . . Only the 
truly young in the world have the wisdom to be afraid. Someday 
you will understand this, that most people on earth are born old and 
heedless and unafraid." (This was in 1914.) "I am glad you told 
me," he said finally. "I care less for the game of golf than I do for 
my caddy's face. Come along, now, and we'll straighten him out." 

Frohman's funeral was on the following day, and my uncle, Cap'm 
John Bell, gave him that. 

It was fine. Frohman would have been mighty proud to see himself 
riding in the polished black wagon behind the Negro with the cotton 
gloves and the opera hat. And to have seen the Negroes. There must 
have been a hundred of them who came, appeared, as if out of no- 
where, with the definite pomp of people invited to a party, and dressed 
for the occasion. And then the band ! Cap'm John gave him that, too. 

So things were a little better that day. Frohman lived out near the 
New Basin Canal and the railroad tracks, and just the right distance 
from the sad little picket field of wood and concrete markers that was 
to be his stopping-off place until some later city ordinance should shunt 
his dark dust elsewhere in the great anonymity. So we walked; we 
were a parade. Things were better. 

First there was the square black wagon with the screened windows 
and the carved circus scrollwork, then the six-piece band, then Cap'm 



292 S. S. Field 

John and I, and then the Negroes. I remember looking back as we 
turned the corner with the band taking the high notes of "Tiger Rag," 
their dazzling clarinets and trombones aimed at the sky, shimmering, 
and I could see all the curled palms swinging in unison with a cake- 
walk swagger, and the ten or fifteen Negroes in bandmasters' uni- 
forms (a kind of outlandish Negro improvisation from the outlandish 
Caucasian habits of Shriners, Elks, Masons, and the Royal Order of 
St. James, only made of cheap materials; they were an organization) 
with the black velvet banner and the white cotton gloves. I remember 
the identical curl of each pair of the white cotton gloves . . . and the 
way they lifted their feet: high and slithering as if missing imaginary 
eggs. It was fine. We must have been grand as we rounded the turn 
skirting the New Basin Canal on Frohman's march to glory. Even 
Cap'm John swaggered a little. 

"This is better," he said. "I should have my prince suit here. It is 
remarkable what Providence directs their feet while they aim those 
horns at heaven. Frohman must be enjoying this," and we sashayed 
around the turn onto the dry mud street to glory. . . . 

And so we buried Frohman. Cap'm John was splendid. 

And that afternoon too we had our first ride on the new Martha R. 
Bell. She is still in service, small and tough and jovial, with a decided 
swagger of her own on the turns. Somehow I know that she will live 
just about as long as Cap'm John, and not much longer. I see her now 
and then. And when we marched out of Frohman's funeral that day, 
and onto her steep, new deck, he seemed to have stepped out of public 
life and back into the privacy of himself. The only regret I have 
ever heard him express concerning his brief sojourn among the gentle 
was over the winning of his third golf tournament. 

Hopper Bell, by the way, is dead. 

"Experience, you know. That is the thing. Experience is pain and 
it is out of pain that we grow." I remember he said that, that evening 
on the way back, hurrying around the great bend in the river, butting 
our way proudly in the amber afterglow. The gulls were clamoring 
and moiling over a drifting meal. And then I remember him standing 
against the evening, looming a little bit in the wheelhouse beside me, 
silent, watching the river. I remember him that way. When I left 
him that night I thanked him. 




Backwoods Humor 



Clyde W. Wilkinson 



PERHAPS, Dear Reader, you would like to join the Sit, Whittle, 
and Spit Club, official organization for all adult males who know 
and practice these three rules: 

1. Don't sit in the sun. 

2. Don't whittle toward yourself. 

3. Don't spit against the wind. 

Far from the madding crowd and off the beaten track there is a 
place where the tall pines grow; where sparkling, fast-running streams 
flow; where life is good because a man does not keep eternally in a 
sweat about things; where life is as informal as a sneeze; where things 
are so quiet you can hear the spiders spin; where pork is home-cured, 
lard is home-rendered and soap is homemade; where camp meetings 
are held regularly under brush arbors, even if the people are as super- 
stitious as gamblers or sailors; where "funmakings" abound in the form 
of play parties, barn dances, 'possum trots, house-raisings, barbecues, 
shooting matches, quilting parties, logrollings, husking bees, singing 
bees, and fox hunts; where the only musical instruments are the fiddle 
(not the violin), the guitar, and the banjo; where the rarest of all 
modern luxuries— idle time without chronic unemployment — allows 
the lanky, gawky men and boys, whose belts seem to need tightening, 
to congregate around campfires and on crossroads store porches, to 
attempt to drown their sorrows that have already learned to swim, and 
to enjoy their own homespun humor. Where a man with a two- 
mouse-power brain not made for climbing the tree of knowledge 
starts, after strumming his catarrh vigorously, on a story as long as a 
rainy Sunday in the country; where one story is lit on the stub of an- 
other and the train of thought has no terminal but continues with the 

293 



294 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

persistence of a toothache; where the people are pilgrims on the path 
of least resistance, as full of tricks as a thirteen-spade bridge hand, but 
as friendly as wet pups; where mosquitoes use your ankles for filling 
stations— there is where you will find a gentle, genial, slow brand of 
humor; for that is the backwoods. 

And as for humor, there is much about it that most people do not 
know. The semasiology of the word humor would itself be a joke 
to the backwoodsman. Humor, basically, means what Ben Jonson 
used it to mean — a kind of mysterious juice or something that works 
within man to determine or change his temperament. Or, as Wood- 
worth or Freud would put it, a hormone that affects man psycholog- 
ically. Only in medical terminology is it so used today. 

But, by a process not infrequent in semasiology, the word humor 
came to mean the resultant temperament, which might be either tem- 
porary or permanent, instead of the causal juice. Thus we have in a 
good humor and in a bad humor. 

Then, by another quite usual occurrence in semasiology, the word 
humor, when unqualified by such words as good and bad, came to 
mean only one kind of humor — the laughing or funny humor. 

And finally, reversing the initial change in meaning, anything that 
might cause humor became known as humor. That is the usual mean- 
ing now. 

Still it is necessary to differentiate between humor and wit; for, 
while many people use them interchangeably, there is a difference. 
Humor is the more comprehensive term, frequently involving a feeling 
of sympathy for the butt, Bergson notwithstanding and Thurber up- 
holding. Wit is more purely intellectual, being the "felicitous percep- 
tion or expression of the incongruous," as Max Eastman put it. Re- 
partee, satire, and sarcasm are wit, not humor. One may well be 
humorous without being witty, but wit brings about humor. Were 
this an article on backwoods wit, it would be very short; for back- 
woodsmen usually are not especially witty. But since it is on back- 
woods humor, the problem of selecting and limiting is a major one; 
for the backwoodsman is very humorous. 

Roberta Semple agrees when she says, "Then I like their ever-ready 
sense of humor, that laughs as often at their own hardships as at 
things actually funny." 

Here are some examples of what she meant: When asked how much 
interest the Landlord Jones charged, Will Prender of Gee's Bend, Ala- 



Backwoods Humor 295 

bama, said, "Better ask somebody else that. I can write my name, but 
be dog if I can figger interest. Buy on the credit and it costs about 
10% more, in the first place. Then there's 8% charged up on the 
credit. Some says that makes 18%. Others say, considering we don't 
have the credit but part of the year, that it adds up nearer 36%. And 
some landlords figger with a corkscrew dipped in ink." 

"What if he cheats you?" someone asked. 

"How you going to prove it ? Landlords keep the figgers and crop- 
pers ain't scholars. If you think he's cheating you, you can cuss him 
out — where he can't hear you. Or you can move on if he and the 
sheriff don't pistol-whip you back to work off the debt." 

Then when asked about living conditions under the landlord, Will 
explained: "Sleeping in the house there is about as much shelter as 
sleeping behind a barbwire fence. And croppers don't get no credit 
for improving buildings. My cousin Evrit claims he was hammering 
inside his house and the hammer flew clean through the rotten wall 
and kilt a pullet in the yard." 

One phase of life the backwoodsman often makes fun of is the gen- 
eral and particular laziness of people. It is told that a certain man 
over in Happy Hollow vicinity was so lazy the neighbors decided to 
take him to the cemetery under the pretense of burying him alive. 
He peacefully submitted to being put in a coffin and hauled away 
toward the graveyard. At the edge of town a neighbor noticed the 
procession and inquired who was dead. "Nobody," replied the driver, 
"but we are going to bury Tom Jones because he is too lazy to work 
and support his wife and five kids who are on starvation." 

"Why, you don't say so," said the kindhearted neighbor; "I will 
give him a bushel of corn if you will let him off this time." 

Tom Jones lifted himself up in the coffin, rubbed his eyes and asked, 
"Is it shelled?" 

"No," replied his neighbor. 

"Drive on, boys," said Jones, shifting his face into neutral; and he 
indolently lay back in the coffin. 

Another: Old Jim Moss, over on Polk Mountain, got so lazy one hot 
summer he wouldn't keep his wife's axe sharp so she could cut her 
own cook wood. Jim's old hound dog was lazy, too. The two would 
lie around in the shade and gripe and growl while Jim's wife, Fanny, 
would make things hum. One day the dog was howling mighty loud 
and pitiful. A stranger, passing by the house, inquired of Fanny why 



296 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

the dog was doing all the yelping. "He's sitting on a cocklebur," said 
Fanny. 

"Why don't he move?" queried the stranger. 

"He's just like Jim," said Fanny. "He'd rather howl as ter move." 

Later on when the depression hit the country and Fanny's hens went 
on a strike and Jim's credit at the crossroads store dropped like a para- 
chute, Jim pepped up a little. Things got to looking serious when 
starvation began to stare him in the face, and one day down at the 
store he told some of the boys that "be darned if he wouldn't might' 
nigh break his back carrying in washings for Fanny before he would 
starve." 

These stories of Tom Jones and Jim Moss are a little extravagant 
but are fine illustrations of the cussed laziness common in almost every 
community. The lazy fellow who nailed the Lord's Prayer on the 
wall at the foot of his bed and who, after falling into bed, was accus- 
tomed to say, "Lord, them's my sentiments," is a true example of thou- 
sands who are hale and hearty in appetite, sound and "snorous" in 
sleep, active and energetic in frolic, yet who shun downright, honest 
work as they would shun smallpox. 

Even the nomenclature of backwoods Arkansas reveals humorous 
aptness. Some very expressive place names are: Swampoodle, Goose 
Hill, Nubbin Ridge, Buttermilk Hill, Frog Level, Devil's Hole, Clabber 
Creek, Hog Thief Valley, Spoonerville, Dog Branch, Bug City, Food 
Suck, Pea Ridge, and Potato Hill. 

Even the newspapers and magazines abound in backwoods humor. 
Here are some gleanings from them: 

The big revival meeting at the brush arbor tabernacle was a 
success. We had one conversion, three weddings and seven fights. 
We were left with more roosters in our flock than last year. 

The members of the men's Sit, Whittle & Spit Club, Inc., are 
making an investigation to determine who poisoned the fish in 
Soakum Creek last week by washing their feet in its waters. 

Dinkus Limpleg hops worse than ever now since he fell thru 
the kitchen floor at a dance the other night and the family's old 
sandy sow bit his good leg. 

At a recent meeting of the Sit, Whittle and Spit Club, Inc., of 
which Slosh Waterhead is the grand dragon, a resolution of reproof 
was offered and passed against I. M. Boozy, storekeeper at Soakum 



Backju/oods Humor 297 

Center, for putting fine sand in the last batch of paint with which 
he painted his store, and furniture, such as nail kegs, soap boxes, 
etc. Slosh alleged he had ruined his best knife and pair of pants 
as a result of the foul deed. 

Old Man Tellem Bigger plead guilty to clearing out the thicket 
of timber between the swimming pool and highway, but said he 
did so to allow the swimmers to see the folks on the highway, and 
vice versa, and also encourage the wearing of bathing suits. 

Three boys appeared at the club and alleged complaints against 
the Misses O. U. Deere, Imajune Beetle, and Early Mae Bugg for 
putting quinine in their face powder and paregoric in their lip- 
stick. The girls claimed their mother placed the ingredients there 
as a safeguard and were dismissed without charges after Mr. Slosh 
sampled their lips to make sure they were harmless. 

Humor is so natural with the backwoodsman that it even gets into 
the advertisements of his magazines. Here is an advertisement that 
was run in four successive issues of the Ozar\ Magazine. 

We Hillbillies down here in the Ozarks are supposed to be so 
perpetually happy and well satisfied that we will sit for a half day 
on a cocklebur without either howling or moving. I am happy, 
but I'm not satisfied. I want another thousand subscribers to my 
Ozark Magazine, and I also want a second class mailing permit, 
so as to save postage. Now the government won't allow me to 
give my subscriptions away but they don't object to me offering 
you a four months' trial subscription for one thin dime on a money 
back guarantee of satisfaction. 

So I suggest that you send a dime in coin or stamps for a four 
months' trial subscription to this news-magazine of the Ozarks 
with the understanding that if at the end of the period you are 
not satisfied with your purchase your dime will be promptly re- 
funded. If, on the other hand, you are satisfied, like hundreds of 
others, and are convinced that this wonderful publication is as 
unique as a hillbilly, tasty as a watermelon in June, invigorating 
as an April breeze, and as eagerly anticipated as a monthly Santa 
Claus, then send me another 40c for a full year of 12 more issues, 
or 90c for a full three years' subscription. 

You can't lose. Our cards are on the table face up and you hold 
the trump. Flip me the dime now and you will not only help a 



298 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

young editor towards success, but you will be helping yourself to 
some of the most interesting reading you have had since the days 
of the "Arkansas Traveler" and Opie Read's "Slow Train Through 
Arkansas, etc." 

Yes, the backwoodsman is humorous in two senses: He is an anomaly 
or sport (in the biologist's meaning) and therefore humorous, and he 
is a true humorist, after his own fashion. 

We have our philosophers of humor; we have our professional hu- 
morists; we have our literary humorists; we have our wits (and nit- 
wits) ; and we have our people, "creatures of the woods and wilds, not 
in wall towns" (in George Meredith's words), who, in their daily 
lives, make and enjoy their own homespun humor, which oozes from 
them like toothpaste from a tube — the backwoodsmen, for example 
(who are only one of the many groups, however). The philosophers — 
such men as Max Eastman, Henri Bergson, T. L. Masson, William 
Hazlitt, George Meredith, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Stephen Leacock 
— unanimously tell us that incongruity is the source of all humor. The 
absurd, the irreconcilable, the inappropriate, the misfit, the miscreant, 
the sport, the greenhorn, the tenderfoot or the furriner — these are 
funny because they do not "jibe" with the usual conception; they are 
incongruities. But the philosophers are not backwoodsmen. 

The professional humorists — such men as Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, 
George Burns, Jimmy Durante — learn formulas for jokes, then substi- 
tute a, b, and c (facts or ideas) for x, y, and z (unknowns) in the 
formulas, and presto! we have a "new" joke. But the backwoodsmen 
are not professional humorists, either. 

The literary humorists — such as Mark Twain, James Whitcomb 
Riley, Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye and Artemus Ward — put flesh and 
blood on the skeleton of an old joke, or contrive a new one. But 
neither are the literary men backwoodsmen. 

The wits (perhaps more properly called nitwits) — and here Ben 
Bernie reigns supreme — say and do things that are neither fish nor 
flesh nor good red herring, but some people consider them humorists. 
They are humorous, as any "sport" is humorous, if the desire to laugh 
at (not with) them is not quenched by disgust. But the wit is just 
the opposite of the backwoodsman's; it is that of the ultra-sophisticate. 

As for the backwoodsman, not even a cigar is more subject to being 
made a butt than is he. And many jokes there are about the back- 



Backwoods Humor 299 

woods. But again that is not the topic ; for the topic here is the back- 
woodsman as a maker of humor. 

He does not study the philosophy of humor. In fact, he probably 
does not know what it is; and if you were to mention a philosophy of 
humor he would probably ask you how much a philosophy of humor 
is, or say that he did not know that it was measured by philosophies- 
full. He does not, as the professionals, designedly make humor; he 
asks no other remuneration than a good laugh; he follows no formula. 
He does not, as the literary man, labor to bring forth a mountain of 
fun, to preserve his humor that future generations may read and say, 
"What a funny fellow he was!" So when he begets a mouse, nothing 
is lost. His humor is as spontaneous and natural as the dislike of pay- 
ing taxes, and all he asks is that his companions recognize that he is 
intelligent enough to see the funny side of a situation. A little mouse 
of a thought scampers across his brain and he pursues it. 

Even though his humor almost invariably comes in small talk, like 
that of the wit or nitwit, it is not fraught with repartee, puns, quips, and 
turns; for these are on the intellectual level of wit, and the backwoods- 
man is a humorist, not a wit; and he is never silly. He never loses 
the thread of his story looking for pearls of speech to string on it, even 
though he may qualify his statements as thoroughly as a writer whose 
text is eternally heckled by footnotes. 

In general, the run of store-porch humor is a gentle humor: an out- 
growth of extensive leisure, corn-meal mush, sun and rain, dew and 
moonlight, and backwoods stillness. It rarely bears bitterness; the 
backwoodsman laughs because he sees no reason why he should not. 
It is casual and follows no plan or philosophy of humor. 

Because the backwoodsman uses no philosophy of humor, follows 
no formula, and has no design or purpose except to create mirth, his 
humor almost defies classification. Typical of attempts at classifications 
of American humor are those of Sculley Bradley and Stephen Leacock. 
Bradley considers our native humor as dependent upon (1) homeli- 
ness, (2) situation, (3) exaggeration, (4) the punctured illusion, while 
Leacock believes that American humor is produced by, or is a result 
of (1) deep simplicity, whether real, affected or alleged, (2) situation 
—getting away from the conventional, (3) exaggeration, (4) disillusion 
—seeing things objectively. The two classifications are as much alike 
as the methods of a Mexican and a Texan counting cattle: They amount 
to the same. Yet both are faulty classifications; for classifications 



300 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

should be complete, mutually exclusive, and founded on one basis 
with an underlying purpose. The first class here includes all the rest. 
Indeed, it is the basis of all humor. But, for convenience, this literary 
division can be used, leaving out division (4) — the humor of punctured 
illusions— for the backwoodsman does not resort to that device. 

Basically no different from other people, the backwoodsman enjoys 
making a butt of what newspapermen call a cub, college students call 
a fish, cowboys call a greenhorn, Boy Scouts call a tenderfoot, pedants 
call a novice or neophyte, and backwoodsmen call a furriner. It seems 
to be human nature for people in any walk of life to think of the 
uninitiated, because of his simplicity or homeliness in new fields, as a 
ready subject for a joke — without regard for how much more he may 
know about everything else except their little circle of known things. 
He is incongruous; he doesn't fit their preconceived notions; he is 
therefore humorous. And the backwoodsman, like a young school- 
teacher, delights in showing any new knowledge he may have gained, 
and particularly in making or telling a joke on one who is not "in the 
know." A sample of this kind of humor is a recitation dealing with 
a lad from Gulch Hollow, who, on first coming to Eureka, was lured 
by the tempting yellowness of the store-window lemons. Having 
never seen lemons before, he bought a whole dime's worth. His first 
attempt to bite one revealed his mistake, but being in the midst of 
onlookers, he did not hesitate until he had eaten all of his lemons. No 
one laughed— outwardly— even after the youth explained, "Yessir, fer 
a considerable spell I've been honin' to get my fill of these here tropical 
fruits because I shorely do pleasure in the flavor of 'em and now I 
aim to revel in it." 

In the same vein— that is, of laughing at naivete— is the story of 
the old maid who prayed protractedly for a husband. Finally, one 
day when she was praying out in the woods, an owl hooted, "Who! 
who!" And the old maid joyously said, "Anybody, Lord. Any man 
will do!" But of course when a neighbor who heard her told this on 
her, she vowed that she knew of his approach and wanted to amuse 

him. 

This nonchalance and attempt to pass the incident off as an inten- 
tional joke is typical. One night at a moonlight supper up at Indian 
Creek schoolhouse, Uncle Bob Wilkins carelessly poured buttermilk 
instead of cream in his coffee. An observing farmwife started to get 
him another cup, but he would none of it. He stirred his coffee well 



Bachjvoods Humor 301 

and explained that he always took buttermilk in his coffee at home, 
and that he much preferred it to cream. 

While there is no end of joking and pranking among the backwoods- 
men themselves, the "furriner" is choice game. A new hand in a 
West Texas thresher crew stands as good chance in the almost nightly 
kangaroo court as a "furriner" does of passing a week in Blue Eye, 
Arkansas, without being made a butt. Just take the incidents of last 
summer when that "furriner" came up to the crossroads where Ike 
Donahue keeps the store. The jokes the natives "pulled" on him 
within the first week, to say nothing of the many little quips and 
drolleries that turn a fellow into jello, were exemplary. 

The "furriner's" name was Weldon McCreary, a young fellow as 
impressionable as new carbon paper. One day out on a fishing trip 
Weldon found a turkey nest where the turkeys had just hatched, leav- 
ing eggshells scattered around. He was so greatly interested in it 
that he asked a thousand inane questions which the hillbillies answered 
as best they could, despite their amusement. Finally one hillbilly got 
tired of "so dam' many questions," and felt justified in lying a little. 
(He explained later that "You jest naturally want to lie like hell when 
you see the flappin' ear of a feller who's goin' to lie about what you 
tell him; so I jest thought to give him some material. He wouldn't 
believe the truth; so why not try stretchin' it a little for him?") But 
he straightened it all out for Weldon after the others refused to co- 
operate, explaining that the kid was a "likely" fellow, only trying to 
learn. 

With this as preliminary, the hillbillies had an excellent chance to 
reap the rewards of their truthfulness. It set the stage for the second 
act and lent credulity to some incredible stories that ensued when 
Weldon found a pile of condensed milk cans near an old campsite. 
When Weldon relates his adventures in the wilds of Arkansas, he 
always tells about discovering the cow's nest. 

Well, nothing succeeds like success, and Weldon's believing about 
the cow's nest with the credulity of a thirty-five-year-old maid when 
a man tells her he loves her called for more as strongly as does the 
beginner's luck of a gambler or the first drink of a preacher's son. 

The next day, no more than Weldon's remark about the length of a 
pumpkin vine was necessary to start another series of incredible stories 
that would do a Texas cowboy justice. The variations and ramifica- 
tions of the accumulative pumpkin story that followed were so nu- 



302 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

merous and extensive that several hours went into their telling. But 
the essence of the story was that pumpkin raising would be as pros- 
perous a business as gold mining in the Klondike except for the great 
expense of skates, necessarily put under the young pumpkins to keep 
the fast-growing vines from wearing them out dragging them on the 
ground. And to support the story, Donahue had Weldon write out 
an order for an astronomical number of skates. 

Usually if there is anything to be gained by so doing, the backwoods- 
man can laugh all over and enjoy a joke immensely without showing 
it outwardly. Thus he can enjoy it a week or more, or until a better 
one comes along. And so it was with the two jokes just recited. But 
a third threw all into contortions, for it involved not only belief but 
action of the "furriner" on that belief. 

Weldon had hired out to work for a hillbilly, Rube Wilkins. On 
being told to grease the wagon, Weldon asked a neighbor how. He 
was told to take the wheels off, remove the tires, grease all around on 
the inside, replace the tires, then replace the wheels. When Weldon 
seemed a little skeptical, the neighbor explained that there was a 
groove for grease under the tire that would be readily seen when the 
tire was removed. From this groove the grease ran down through 
the small holes in the spokes and into the hubs, in just the right 
amounts. This all sounded good; and it was only by the opportune 
return of Rube that he saved a tire-shrinking job; for the hired man 
was hard at it, following directions. 

Weldon was a "likely" fellow, though, if a little credulous; and he 
could read. And here's what that came to, according to Rube Wilkins : 

You know, over at Blue Eye where we come from, that there's 
the reel brush. Weldon McCreary he's about the only feller down 
that there creek bend as knows how to read and write; so about 
seven or eight of us chipped in and taken the Springfield news- 
paper, figgerin' we could let Weldon read it to us. 

Well, we done hit, and one day we was settin' around listenin' 
and Weldon was readin' about where the paper said as how ever'- 
body ought to plant a lot of corn and plow hit a lot because some 
mighty bad drauts [droughts] was comin'. Mart Miller set and 
puzzled awhile and then he says: 

"Weldon, what's a draut?" a-thinkin' Weldon didn't know from 
the way he read. 



Backjvoods Humor 303 

Weldon, he chawed his terbaccer a minute and strokes his 
whiskers what's a-gettin' purty long and says: 

"Well, I couldn't be jest shore, but if I ain't mighty mistaken, a 
draut is one of them new-fangled varmints that's a cross betwixt 
a coon and a wildcat. Anyhow they shore is hell on corn." 

The backwoodsmen, though naive themselves, delight in this humor 
of deep simplicity and homeliness. They make much of it, as is shown 
by the multiplicity of tales of the same water, some of which are: "The 
Old Settler: His Reasons for Thinking There Is Natural Gas in Deep 
Rock Gulley," the humor of which lies in the naive reasoning and, 
no little, in the language; "Peace," humorous because of the simple 
reactions of Jud and Martha on seeing their first train; "Their Christ- 
mas Good Deed," humorous because of the peculiar naivete that 
allows two boys to steal in order to do their good deed of giving a 
Christmas present; the story of the sheriff who admitted: "Oh, yes, 
yes! I seed him all right — passed him and spoke howdy to him. But 
I didn't know the low hound reprobate was out of jail;" the story of 
another sheriff who arrested an outlaw but turned him loose on the 
spot because the criminal swore that he was innocent; and the story 
of the backwoodsman who, on going to see about a neighbor bachelor 
who had not been seen for several days, called at the window, "Ball 
Steel, Ball Steel, air ye dead ? If ye air, whistle." 

It is not to be expected that all of backwoods humor has its origin 
in deep simplicity; an equal amount of it comes from the humor 
of situations which get away from the conventional or cause someone 
to lose caste. In the philosophy of humor back of it, there is no differ- 
ence between a man's falling heels over head out of a boat and the 
reply of the young man when told that a tiger was after his mother- 
in-law: "What do I care what happens to a tiger?" There is the same 
strange reversal. 

Another type of humor based on situation is. the pat juxtaposition of 
seemingly irreconcilable things; for the baser seems always to have 
weight to drag the higher down, making humorous its loss of caste. 
The little boy who cried to go to the wedding and stammered, 
"Mamma, I never have seen a wedding nor a wildcat either," inad- 
vertently made humor by this method. "Courting in Kentucky" is 
humorous because Mary Ann, the schoolteacher, stoops to conquer 
in saying "I be" in order to answer Jake's ungrammatical question, 



304 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

"Be ye goin' ter marry me?" about which she had previously chided 
him. "The Battle of Pedlo Crick" depends on the following situation 
for its humor: 

Then she ups and mixes it with him. They slap, scratch, kick 
and cuss till it looks like somebody's goin' to get hurt fer sartin. 
Then they call time out to git their breath; Eddie gits to promul- 
gatin' the propershishin; so when he makes at her with another 
swipe frum thet clapboard, she sed right serious like, "Now, Tubby, 
let's quit this. Sumbody might cum along and think we wuz 
fightin'." 

A story with a similar turn has Jude Wilson weaken and not kill a 
man because Jude's brother Buzz explains repeatedly, "... revenuers 
is men, Jude, same as me and you. Ye ain't supposed t' kill men. 
They's a law agin it. Besides, don't Maw's Bible say somethin' 'bout 
God not likin' it if ye kill a man?" Then at the end Jude asks, "What 
else do Maw's Bible say, Buzz?" 

Many times the humor of lost caste is a little irreverent or discour- 
teous. Take, for instance, this quotation: "High on the top of the 
Boston Range I met an old man of seventy-two, and I talked with 
him about his cattle and his crops. They weren't doing so well, he 
admitted without bitterness. 'The government is fixin' to buy up my 
land; reckon they must be aimin' to raise hoot owls on hit,* he 
chuckled." 

Another hillbilly announced that Roosevelt was the greatest man 
that ever lived. "Greater'n Jesus Christ," he said solemnly. "Christ 
said, 'Follow me and ye shall not want.' Roosevelt says, 'Set down, 
boys, and I'll bring hit to ye.' " 

Still another story that teems with bad manners is that of Sam 
Thweat's visit. One time Sam stayed for dinner with Mark Bailey 
and the biscuits hadn't risen well. Sam had no misgivings about 
saying, "Humph, looks like they squatted to rise and baked on the 
squat," even though it crushed Mrs. Bailey. 

A whole group of somewhat irreverent jokes and stories center 
around the camp meeting. The story of the cripple who, when called 
on to testify what the Lord had done for him, said, "He darn near 
ruint me," gives no end of pleasure. The story of the harelip who got 
religion only to lose it the next night when people asked him too 



Backwoods Humor 305 

many times to repeat his testimonial, and that of Uncle Hod who got 
religion but lost it on the way home when his buggy broke down are 
also examples. 

The backwoodsman is not averse to the use of malapropisms and 
other wordplays, though he is not adept at it. He can tell with alacrity 
about old Mrs. Pettigrew's complaint of "pains in her abominable 
muscles," or that "with one of them new Fords her son Wid can 
climb any manner of mountain in neutral." 

Nor is he above a pun. Old Mark Bailey from Red Star tells of his 
family, thus: "Yes, suh, they come three boys, then a girl, then another 
boy. So I named 'em Matthew, Mark, Luke, Ann, John." 

All the backwoods practical jokes, of which the backwoodsman is 
very fond, depend upon situation. These jokes bear no malice; they 
simply take advantage of a situation that lends itself to funmaking. 
The store clerk who risked his job, and lost it, to put a cocklebur under 
the saddle of the well-to-do, correct, obese customer had nothing 
against the old man; he only wanted to see him lose caste for the 
fun of it. 

The story of exaggeration, in the backwoodsman's version, has to 
do with hunting, weather, dogs and dog fighting, fishing — things near 
him. But he does not make nearly so much of this type of humor as 
does the cowboy. When he uses the tall tale, it is usually to make a 
butt of a gullible "furriner" or is the result of competition as to who 
is the best fisherman or who has the best dog: 

'Twas in the early fall an' pappy an' me hed been a-eatin' 
nothin' but fish all through the hot spell, then they stopped a-bitin' 
an' fer days an' days we hed no meat vittles at all. The ducks was 
a-beginnin' to flap towards the south an' Pappy being a dead shot 
with "Jenny," that's the old muzzle loader, 'lowed as we mite con- 
trive to get ourselves a nice fresh duck. So we loads up old Jenny 
with powder and balls an' sets out. 'Bout ten rod from our door- 
step we sees a big mallard duck come a-flappin' along 'bout ten 
feet high. When he sees us he riz' up, but didn't change his di- 
rection none. Pappy waits till he has passed over an' then he ups 
and lets him have it right where he sets down; if he'd been a-settin' 
which he ain't. 

When the black powder smoke clears so we can see a little, 
there ain't nary sign of that duck, 'ceptin' the innards which is 



306 Clyde W. Wilkinson 

a-danglin' graceful like from the limb of a big sycamore. Pappy 
'lows he musta blowed him to bits; so we gives up a-huntin' £er 
the other parts. All the rest of the mornin' me and Pappy tramped 
the woods but nary wigglin' fowel or varmint did we see. Pappy* 
shootin' musta scairt 'em away. By this time we was plumb tired 
an' empty, so we come back to the cabin a-figgerin' we'd hafta be 
content with mush. 

But when we opened the door the pleasentist smell come to our 
noses. Pappy looked at me an' I looked at him, but we both 
knowed it weren't neither of us. Then our eyes lit on the fire- 
place an' a-hanging on the big hook over the fire, was a duck, 
roasted to a nice gold brown. We figured the way it all happened 
was like this: Pappy's shot hit the mallard a-cleanin' him out from 
stern to stem an' knockin' him up in the air, where he fell down 
the chimney a-catchin by one foot on the hook. He hung there 
a-turnin' an' turnin' while the feathers singed off. Then with the 
outsides off an' the insides out he jest natcherally couldn't do 
nothin' 'cept roast. Which same he did to a turn. 




Reverdy 

Jessamyn West 

I NEVER see asters without remembering her — never the haze of 
their pink and lavender blossoming as summer dies, but her name 
is in my heart: Reverdy, Reverdy. 

I never say her name — not to anyone. When people ask about her, 
as they do occasionally even now, I say "she" and "her." "She is still 
gone." "We do not hear from her." "Yes, she was very beautiful," I 
say. But not her name. 

Not Reverdy. That is buried deep, deep in my heart. Where the 
blood is warmest and thickest. . . . Where it has a sound to me like 
bells, or water running, or the doves whose voices in the evening wind 
are like smoke among the madronas and eucalypti. 

I have longed all these years to tell her how it was the night she 
left You may scarcely believe it, but it is worse to have a good thing 
that is not true believed about you, than a bad. To be thanked for 
an act you meant as harmful: Every year those words sharpen until 
at last they cut like knives. 

You musn't think she was like me. She wasn't in the least. Not 
inside nor out. She had dark hair like a cloud. Yes, really. It wasn't 
curly but it didn't hang straight. It billowed out. And her face — oh, 
you mustn't think it was anything like mine. She had hazel eyes and 
a pointed chin. And you've seen lots of people, haven't you, with very 
live, animated faces and dead eyes? It was just the other way with 
Reverdy. Her face was always quiet, but her eyes were so alive they 
glowed. Oh, she was the most beautiful, most alive, and most loving 
girl in the world, and she was my sister. 

I cannot bear for people to say we were alike; she was really good, 
and I was just a show-off. 

Mother — she was better later, and gentler, but then she was bad, 
cruel, and suspicious with Reverdy. Everybody loved Reverdy. Not 

307 



308 Jessamyn West 

just the boys. But Mother wouldn't see that. She always acted as if 
Reverdy were boy-crazy, as if Reverdy tried to entice the boys to her. 
But it wasn't true. Reverdy never lifted a finger to a boy, though they 
were about her all the time from the day she was ten. Bringing her 
May baskets, or Valentines, or their ponies to ride. 

And the big, tough boys liked her, too. When she was twelve and 
thirteen, big eighteen-year-olds would come over and sit on the steps 
and smoke and talk to Reverdy. They never said anything out of 
the way. I know because most of the time I was with them. Reverdy 
didn't care. She never wanted to be alone with them. Reverdy would 
listen to them until she got tired ; then she'd say, "Good-bye for now." 
She'd always say, "Good-bye for now," — and then she'd go out and 
play, maybe run, sheep, run, with the little kids my age. And the 
little kids would all shout when Reverdy came out to play with them, 
and if the game had been about to die, it would come to life again. If 
some of the kids had gone home they'd yell "Hey, Johnnie," or "Hey, 
Mary," or whoever it was, "Reverdy's going to play," and then everyone 
would come back, and in a minute or two the game would be better 
than ever. 

I used to be awfully proud of being her sister. I don't know what 
I would have done without her. I was a terribly plain little frump: 
I wore glasses and had freckles, and if I hadn't been Reverdy's sister 
I'd have had to sit and play jacks by myself until Joe came along. But 
boys would try to get Reverdy's attention by doing things for me. 
They'd say to her, "Does your sister want to ride on my handle bars?" 
And Reverdy would say, all glowing, happier than if she'd been asked, 
"Do you, Sister?" Of course I did, and then when the boy came back 
she'd ride with him just to thank him. 

I don't know why people — why the boys liked her so. Of course, 
she was beautiful, but I think it was more that she was so much — well, 
whatever she was at the moment, she never pretended. She talked with 
people when she wanted to, and when she got tired of them, she 
didn't stay on pretending, but said, "Good-bye for now," and left. 

But Mother would never believe she wasn't boy-crazy and I would 
hear her talking to Reverdy about girls who got in trouble, and how 
she'd rather see a daughter of hers in her grave. I didn't know what 
she was talking about, but it would make my face burn and scalp tingle 
just to hear her. She wouldn't talk sorrowfully or lovingly to Reverdy, 
but with hate. It wasn't Reverdy she hated, but you couldn't tell that, 



Reverdy 309 

looking at her. She would bend over Reverdy and shake her ringer and 
there would be long ugly lines from her nose to her mouth, and her 
eyebrows would be drawn down until you could see the bony ridges 
they were supposed to cover, all bare and hard. It used to make me 
tremble to see her. Then Reverdy would get mad. I don't think she 
knew half the time what Mother was talking about either — only that 
Mother was full of hate and suspicion. She'd wait until Mother had 
finished; then she'd go to the foothills for a walk — even if it was dark 
— and stay for a long time. And then Mother would think she was 
out with some boy again. 

I remember one time my mother came to me and said, "Clare, I 
want you to tiptoe out to the arbor and see what's going on there. 
Reverdy 's out there with Sam Foss and I haven't heard a sound out 
of them for an hour or more." 

The arbor was a kind of little bower covered with honeysuckle. 
There was only a tiny little door, and the honeysuckle strands hung 
so thick over it the arbor was a kind of dark, sweet-smelling cave. 
Reverdy and I used to play house there. I knew I ought to say I 
wouldn't go spying on Reverdy, but I wanted to please Mother; so I 
went creeping out toward the arbor, holding my breath, walking on 
my toes. I didn't know then — but I've found out since — you can't do 
a thing without becoming that thing. When I started out to look for 
Reverdy I was her little sister, loving her. But creeping that way, 
holding my breath, spying, I became a spy. My hands got heavy and 
hot and my mouth dry, and I wanted to see her doing — whatever it 
was — Mother was fearful of. 

And then when I got to the arbor and peeped in, I saw that Chum- 
mie, our ten-year-old brother, was there with them, and they were all 
practicing sign language. Deaf-and-dumb language was the rage with 
kids that summer, and there was that big Sam Foss sitting cross-legged, 
practicing sign language so hard he was sweating. They had oranges 
rolled until they were soft, and straws stuck in them to suck the 
juice out. 

That's all they were doing. Practicing deaf-and-dumb language, and 
sucking oranges that way, playing they were bottles of pop. I guess 
they'd taken a vow not to talk, because nobody said a word. Even 
when Reverdy saw me peeping in she didn't say anything, but just 
spelled out, "Hello, Sister." But my hands felt so hot and swollen I 
couldn't spell a thing, and I just stood there and stared until I heard 



310 Jessamyn West 

Mother call me to her, where she was standing strained and waiting 
on the back steps. 

"They're playing sign-language with Chummie," I told her. 

"Is Chummie with them?" she asked and her face relaxed and had 
a sort of shamed look on it, I thought. 

I went in the house and put on the old dress I went swimming in, 
and floated around in the irrigation canal until supper was over and 
so I wouldn't have to sit and look across the table at Reverdy. 

Things like that were always happening. I loved Reverdy more 
than anybody, and I hated Mother sometimes for spying and suspecting 
and lecturing. But I wanted people to love me. And especially you 
want your mother to love you — isn't that true? And no one loved 
me — the way Reverdy was loved. I wasn't beautiful and spontaneous; 
I had to work hard and do good deeds to be loved. I couldn't be free 
the way Reverdy was. I was always thinking of the effect I was mak- 
ing. I couldn't say, "Good-bye for now," and let people go to hell if 
they didn't like me. I was afraid they'd never come back . . . and 
I'd be left . . . alone. But Reverdy didn't care. She liked being alone, 
and that's the reason people loved her, I guess. 

One evening in October, when it was almost dark, I was coming 
home from the library, coasting across lots in the hot dry Santa Ana 
that had been blowing all day. Cool weather had already come, and 
then three days of this hot wind. Dust everywhere. Under your eye- 
lids, between your fingers, in your mouth. When we went to school 
in the morning the first thing we'd do would be to write our names 
in the dust on our desks. I had on a skirt full of pleats that evening, 
and I pulled the pleats out wide so the skirt made a sort of sail and 
the wind almost pushed me along. I watched the tumbleweeds blow- 
ing, and listened to the wind in the clump of eucalypti by the barn, 
and felt miserable and gritty. Then I saw Reverdy walking up and 
down the driveway by the house and I felt suddenly glad. Reverdy 
loved the wind, even Santa Anas, and she was always out walking or 
running when the wind blew, if she didn't have any work to do. She 
liked to carry a scarf in her hand and hold it up in the wind so she 
could feel it tug and snap. When I saw Reverdy I forgot how dusty 
and hot the wind was and remembered only how alive it was and how 
Reverdy loved it. I ran toward her, but she didn't wave or say a word, 
and when she reached the end of the driveway she turned her back 
on me and started walking toward the barn. 



Reverdy 311 

Before I had a chance to say a word to her, Mother came to the door 
and called to me to come in and not talk to Reverdy. As soon as I 
heard her voice before I could see her face, I knew there was some 
trouble — some trouble with Reverdy — and I knew what kind of trouble, 
too. I went in the house and shut the door. The sound of Reverdy's 
footsteps on the pepper leaves in the driveway outside stopped and 
Mother put her head out of the window and said, "You're to keep walk- 
ing, Reverdy, and not stop. Understand? I want to hear footsteps 
and I want them to be brisk." Then she closed the window, though 
it was hard to do against the wind. 

I stood with my face to the window and looked out into the dusty, 
windy dark where I could just see Reverdy in her white dress walking 
up and down, never stopping, her head bent, not paying any attention 
to the wind she loved. It made me feel sick to see her walking up 
and down there in the dusty dark like a homeless dog, while we were 
snug inside. 

But Mother came over to the window and took the curtain out of my 
hand and put it back over the glass. Then she put her arm around 
my shoulders and pressed me close to her and said, "Mother's own 
dear girl who has never given her a moment's trouble." 

That wasn't true. Mother had plenty of fault to find with me 
usually, but it was sweet to have her speak lovingly to me, to be cher- 
ished and appreciated. Maybe you can't understand that, maybe your 
family was always loving, maybe you were always dear little daughter, 
or maybe, a big golden wonder-boy. But not me and not my mother. 
So try to understand how it was with me, then, and how happy it 
made me to have Mother put her arms about me. Yes, I thought, I'm 
Mother's comfort. And I forgot I couldn't make a boy look at me if 
I wanted to and blamed Reverdy for not being able to steer clear of 
them the way I did. She just hasn't any consideration for any of us, 
I decided. Oh, I battened on Reverdy's downfall all right. 

Then Father and Chummie came in and Mother took Father away 
to the kitchen and talked to him there in a fast, breathless voice. I 
couldn't hear what she was saying, but I knew what she was talking 
about, of course. Chummie and I sat there in the dark. He whirled 
first one way and then another on the piano stool. 

"What's Reverdy doing walking up and down outside there?" he 
asked. 

"She's done something bad again," I told him. 



312 Jess am yn West 

Mother's voice got higher and higher, and Chummie said he'd have 
to go feed his rabbits, and I was left alone in the dark listening to her, 
and to Reverdy's footsteps on the pepper leaves. I decided to light 
the lights, but when I did — we had acetylene lights — the blue-white 
glare was so terrible I couldn't stand it. Not to sit alone in all that 
light and look at the dusty room and listen to the dry sound of the 
wind in the palms outside, and see Reverdy's books on the library table 
where she'd put them when she got home from school, with a big 
bunch of wilted asters laid across them. Reverdy always kept her 
room filled with flowers, and if she couldn't get flowers she'd have 
leaves or grasses. 

No, I couldn't stand that; so I turned out the lights and sat in the 
dark and listened to Reverdy's steps, not fast or light now, but heavy 
and slow. . . . And I sat there and thought I was Mother's comforter, 
not causing her trouble like Reverdy. 

Pretty soon I heard Mother and Father go outside, and then their 
voices beneath the window. Father was good, and he was for reason, 
but with Mother he lost his reason. He was just like me, I guess. He 
wanted Mother to love him, and because he did he would go out and 
say to Reverdy the things Mother wanted him to say. 

Chummie came back from feeding his rabbits and sat with me in 
the dark room. Then I got the idea of a way to show Mother how 
much I was her comfort and mainstay, her darling younger daughter, 
dutiful and harmonious as hell. Mother wanted me and Chummie to 
be musical; she'd given up with Reverdy, but Chummie and I had taken 
lessons for years. Usually we kicked and howled at having to play; 
so, I thought, if we play now it will show Mother how thoughtful and 
reliable we are. It will cheer her up while she's out there in the wind 
talking to that bad Reverdy. Yes, she will think, I have one fine, de- 
pendable daughter, anyway. 

So I said to Chummie, "Let's play something for Mother." So he 
got out his violin, and we played that piece I've ever afterwards hated. 
Over and over again, just as sweet as we could make it. Oh, I felt 
smug as hell as I played. I sat there on the piano stool with feet just 
so, and my hands just so, and played carefully, every note saying, 
"Mother's comfort. Mother's comfort. Played by her good, fine, re- 
liable daughter." 

We could hear Mother's high voice outside the window and Rev- 
erdy's low murmur now and then. Chummie finally got tired of play- 



Reverdy 313 

ing — the music wasn't saying anything to him — and went out to the 
kitchen to get something to eat. I went too, but the minute I took a 
bite I knew I wasn't hungry, and Chummie and I went to bed. I lay 
in bed a long time waiting to hear Mother and Reverdy come in, but 
there wasn't any sound but the wind. 

I was asleep when Reverdy did come in. She sat down on the side 
of my bed, and it was just her sitting there that finally awakened me. 
Then, when I was awake she picked up my hand and began to press 
my finger tips one by one, and spoke in the sweetest, kindest voice. 
You'd never have thought to hear her that she had just spent four or 
five hours the way she did. 

She said, "I'll never forget your playing for me, Sister. Never. 
Never. It was kind and beautiful of you. Just when I thought I was 
all alone I heard you telling me not to be sad." Then she leaned over 
and kissed me and said, "Good night, now. I've put some asters in 
water for you. They're a little wilted but I think they'll be all right 
by morning. Go to sleep, now. I'll never forget, Clare." 

If I could only have told her— if I could only have told her then. 
If I could have said to her, "I was playing for Mother, Reverdy. I 
guess I was jealous of your always having the limelight. I wanted to 
be first for once." If I could only have said, "I love you more than 
anything, Reverdy, but I have a mean soul," she would have put her 
cheek to mine and said, "Oh, Clare, what a thing to say." 

But I couldn't do it and next morning she was gone. And there on 
the table by my bed were the asters she had left for me, grown fresh 
over night. 



RANCHERS 

Maurice Lesemann 

They went off on the buckboard in the rain, 
The children in the straw. I didn't know 
Which one of the long roads they'd have to go, 
But I saw them just as plain. 

For anywhere they chose to turn the horses 
There'd be the same grey miles of tableland, 
The same rank smell of sage, the same wet sand 
In the windy watercourses. 

And anywhere in time there'd be red hills 
Rising, raw rock against the rain. I saw 
The plunge and splash across a lonely draw, 
The long slow climb with red mud on the thills. 

And somewhere, in good time, I knew they'd pass 
As if in secret from the road they traveled, 
To follow out like a thread of rope unraveled 
Some faint mark in the grass, 

And come to a gate, perhaps where a stray steer 
Breathed in the dusk, or slipped on the wet stone there; 
And come to a house ... I knew they'd be alone there 
Most of the year. 

The earth would slowly change where they had stepped, 
The air would fill up softly with the sound 
Of teams, voices ... I thought the red hills must have slept 
Until they woke the ground. 

I thought no words could make, on anybody's mouth, 
As true an image as their hills would keep of them, 
Where on our world spread westward like a cloth 
They worked a homely hem. 



314 




Indians in Blue Jeans 



Alice Marriott 



THERE is only one set of statistics that I, a nonmathematically- 
minded being, can keep straight in my head They relate to the 
Indian population of the state of Oklahoma. At the drop of a hat I 
can inform you that Oklahoma has one-fourth of the Indian popula- 
tion of the United States, almost one hundred thirty thousand individ- 
uals, and that they come from fifty-five distinct and recognizable tribes. 
Having shot that bolt, I am in the habit of waiting smugly for the 
hearer to digest the information. 

Because I grew up in Oklahoma, went to elementary school, high 
school, and college with Indians, took them for granted as ordinary 
members of the community, it required some time for me to realize 
that there was anything very special, or even different, about them. 
Light dawned; there were books and courses in anthropology; I learned 
about the isolation existing in all-Indian communities; I came to the 
realization that under the surface in Oklahoma was a whole life going 
on that nobody knew anything about. There followed absorption in 
that life to the exclusion of all-white Oklahoma; there came the feeling 
that it was the only kind of life to be lived. 

The rudest of awakenings came, however, when I was hired by the 
Department of the Interior to work with the Indians. The Depart- 
ment meant well, and by and large did better than good by me. But 
because I knew what a white person could of the under-the-surface 
life in Oklahoma; because I knew personally the leading members of 
several tribes; because in the Indian country I came and went as I 
pleased with the consent of those who lived there, the Department of 
the Interior thought it would be nice to let me take visiting "firemen" 
around the state of Oklahoma. 

315 



316 Alice Marriott 

This is neither the time nor the place to discuss personalities. The 
visitors were usually perfectly swell people, and it was the best of good 
luck for me to meet them, let alone be with them in the isolation of 
movement day after day. And I had a perfectly swell time in a lot 
of ways. 

But there was die traditional fly in the customary ointment. Many 
of the visitors had lived in the Southwest— that is, in New Mexico or 
Arizona. Many more had traveled there. Practically all of them were 
making a side-swing through Oklahoma on their way back to Wash- 
ington. All of this colored their mental approach to Oklahoma Indians. 

In the first place, it does an Oklahoman no good at all to listen to 
talk of a "Southwest" that excludes Oklahoma. Parts of Oklahoma are 
pretty thoroughly Southwestern, even to the extent of having cowboy 
boots made in Fort Worth instead of Boston. But then we wear cow- 
boy boots when working. If they were vacation clothing, we might 
pick them up in the nearest shoe store, too. We are not professional 
South westerners; we just happen to live in the country. 

In the second place, Oklahoma is a big place. To see anything of 
it, you cannot sandwich your travels between a week in Santa Fe and 
a train-change in Kansas City. As a matter of cold, hard fact, driving 
an average of fifty miles an hour— in the days when you could average 
fifty miles an hour— it takes the better part of a day and a night to drive 
across Oklahoma. That is, if you go directly and don't stop to see any- 
thing but essential traffic lights. It's forty miles between towns on an 
average, and you can manage, in parts of Oklahoma, to do a fair lot of 
driving without striking any signs of towns or white people. Those 
are the places where you have to go to find Indians, and if you are the 
kind that requires a good hotel bed for a night's sleep, you can make 
up your mind to do some night driving getting to it. 

In the third place, there were those— those— those unmentionable 
Navajos. Every blessed one of the visiting "firemen" arrived foaming 
at the mouth with adjectives in praise of the Navajo. To the fairest 
sights that the Oklahoma Indian country had to offer, they turned a 
blind eye; to its most exciting sounds, a deaf ear. 

"Have you ever seen a Navajo Yeibichai ?" they would inquire. "You 
don't know what Indian dancing and singing are like, then. Such 
color! Such movement! Such emotion!" And they would hum a 
Yeibichai song in a way that even I, who had never heard one, would 
know was wrong. 



Indians in Blue Jeans 317 

I began to get pretty much fed up with the Navajos, which wasn't 
fair to them. It became a challenge, a crusade. I would — since some- 
body had to — show these ignorant foreigners what Indians really were 
like. There were one-fourth of the Indians of the United States in 
Oklahoma — more than in any other state. Numerically, on the lowest 
basis, they far outnumbered the Navajos. Mentally, a great many of 
them considered the Navajo one step up from mules, but considerably 
below the IQ's of intelligent horses. I went of? in corners with books, 
and came up with knowledge out of their own minds to confound 
those visitors who chanted the praises of the Navajo. Nothing, I proved 
to them conclusively, that the Navajo did or said or had was Navajo. 
Navajo life represented traits that they shared with all other Atha- 
bascans or had taken over lock, stock, and barrel from other Indians or 
from the whites. And still the visiting firemen told me that I hadn't 
lived till I'd known the Navajos, and I became desperate. I would, I 
determined, write a book to prove something or other. It didn't matter 
what, so long as what it proved was about the Indians of Oklahoma. 

So that's how it all got started. I don't pretend that the proportion 
of full-bloods is as high among all Oklahoma Indians of all tribes as it 
is among the Navajos. I don't claim that their cultures have been as 
little affected by whites or as much shaped by their own wills. I don't 
pretend that the average, everyday blue jeans or cotton dresses of the 
rural Oklahoma Indian will compare favorably for picturesqueness 
with the velveteens and satins and jewelry of the back-country Navajo 
out to do a spot of sheep-herding. 

What I claim is this : that Indians, since De Soto upset the apple cart 
in 1541, have been making the best of things and doing pretty well 
at it. Those that I have known best — those from the fifty-five tribes 
and remnants of tribes in Oklahoma — have all certain qualities in com- 
mon. They are proud of being Indians. They may twist their heads 
on one side, look up at you out of the corners of their eyes, and say, 
"What's a poor Indian going to do?" when they want you to write a 
letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for them, but just you 
try calling them poor Indians! 

They are skeptical, friendly, generous, and hospitable. The stranger 
within their gates is going to be tested and tried — weighed in a balance 
— and if he is found wanting, he will never get within the gates again. 
For the lucky few whom they admit, there is the acquisition of whole 
new family circles, and all the fun and affection — and responsibility — 



318 Alice Marriott 

that go with any family circle. Once in, you know you will never be 
hungry— never again be without a roof where you are welcome to lay 
your head. Notice that word welcome. That's the force of the whole 
thing. 

Theirs may be, on the surface, the life of the white farmer. There 
are Indian Okies. But once inside, once aware of what is going on, 
you find yourself with a set of challenges; the life around you dares 
you to analyze it — to sift those elements that are purely Indian and of 
one tribe from those that are white or have been borrowed from other 
Indians. A lifetime is too little for the sorting. 

Now, if you want your Indians in the show window and within 
reach of the best hotels, bars, and dress shops, go to your capitalized 
Southwest forthwith. You can see a powerful lot of Indian life — just 
as much as the Indians want to let you see— with powerful little effort. 
But if your concern is with Indians who are Indians, and minding their 
own business about it, then come to Oklahoma— but take your time 
when you get here. Forget about making connections in Kansas City, 
and for Heaven's sake forget that you ever heard of the City of the 
Holy Faith. No Oklahoman, white or Indian, will thank you for 
bringing that subject up. 

In the back country in Oklahoma, you will probably see things that 
strike you as funny, but remember — the incongruities that amuse the 
whites come from the culture that the whites whammed over Indian 
heads for four hundred-odd years. Don't think that you don't amuse 
well-informed Indians in exactly the same way that they amuse you. 
Honestly, now, why do you think they put war bonnets on the heads 
of Senators ? Not altogether to do them honor, you may be sure. 




Not Darkness, But in Shadow 

Fred Shaw 



WHEN I shook the dust of the flatwoods from my feet, I 
thought I would never return, but I do. At night I go back. 
I am waiting for sleep in the darkness, ten years and a thousand miles 
from my youth, when the same tightness gathers at my throat. 

I lie again in the musty room of the Blue Goose Hotel, smelling the 
warm grease from the kitchen, hearing the night sounds of the street: 
footfalls on the steps outside, a car rattling and banging across the 
railroad tracks, Negroes laughing and talking and singing as their 
shoes clomp on the pavement below. A hound is baying in the distance. 
I turn on my belly and look out at the night and at Milltown, at the 
stores and the dark pines beyond. 

This is a story about Milltown. It is a story of the flatwoods soul 
—ribald, coarse, wallowing in life, yet praying to a God of superstition 
and hell-fire, of mercy and predestination. If the tale means anything 
to you, you will see Milltown squatting in the dust, rising of a sudden 
to a great belly laugh, to quixotic action, or to almost incredible violence. 

For anything could happen in Milltown. I was in the drugstore the 
night they gave Lem Davis croton oil when he was begging for 
whisky. I saw the black hole in the dead man's head on election day. 
And when the moonshiners dynamited their still and killed the deputies 
who found it, I heard the boom that shook the town. 

Once I almost witnessed a murder in Joe Bassett's store, a dusty, dead 
place where nothing could have happened. I had wandered in to buy 
some shotgun shells late one afternoon, but when I saw old man 
Bassett talking to the Baptist preacher's wife, I didn't bother him. He 
was quiet enough ordinarily, but his temper could flare up like a 
woods fire. There was the day a month before when his brother Josh 
started cursing in the store and Joe bashed his head with an axe handle. 

319 



320 Fred Shaw 

I could still see Joe Bassett dragging his brother through the dust and 
tobacco juice of the street to Doctor Mac's office, could hear him say, 
"Well, I reckon I killed him, Mac. See what you'n do for him." 

Old man Bassett and the preacher's wife were standing back there 
in the shadows, pawing over bolts of cloth he had laid out on the 
counter, sniggering and talking fast. Joe Bassett's little eyes sparkled; 
smiles spread across the brown parchment of his face, and with every 
one you could see the unnatural pink above his false teeth. 

The preacher's wife looked feverish and hungry. She moved 
nervously about the counter, rubbing her fingers over the cloth, holding 
it up to the light, or brushing it gently against her cheek. She was too 
tired to be pretty, but she was younger than old man Bassett. He 
kept edging close to her, so that his leg touched her thigh, and when 
he reached across the counter for another bolt of cloth, his hand flut- 
tered over her naked arm. They hadn't seen me, I suppose. 

After a while I tired of looking at them and started thumbing 
through a seed catalogue. Once Joe Bassett's voice rose harsh and shrill 
in denial, "You'n wear anything you like. You're young." He laughed, 
clumsily gay. 

"But we can't afford that." 

Then their voices fell, and I couldn't hear anything. 

I had yawned past the rhododendrons and was ready to investigate 
the possibilities of the scarlet sage when a shadow fell across the pages 
of the catalogue. When I looked up, Lucy Sutton stood there — a tall 
Negro woman, pretty in the way of the mulatto, soft and appealing. 
She was grinning uncertainly, vaguely, her chubby face creasing up 
from the corners of her mouth. She spoke, and her voice was husky, 
"Ah wants some land, boss man. Ah wants some lahd n' ham n' 
fatback." 

"I don't work here. I read seed catalogues." 

"Ah don' eat seed, boss man. Aincha got no blackeye peas?" For 
a moment she stared stupidly at me, licking her lips with the red tip 
of her tongue, shaking her head as if to clear her vision; then the soft 
brown eyes lighted up, and she smiled. "Yuh don' sell nuthin', boss 
man, no meal n' taters, no collahd greens. Yuh don' wuk heah, boss 
man." 

She didn't stagger much between the door and the grocery counter, 
but she was drunk all right. You could tell by the cautious, mincing 
way that she walked, feeling her way with her feet, leaning toward 



Not Darkness, But in Shadows 321 

the counter before she got there. When she touched it, she grinned 
back at me, "Ain't nuthin' tuh it, boss man, jes' ain't nuthin'." Then 
she leaned against the counter and waited there. 

It couldn't have been long that I watched her, but it seemed a long 
time too, with the shadows lengthening and the voices droning from 
the back of the store. After a while she got tired and started moving 
restlessly about the counter. She began to slap the sugar can, softly 
at first. 

Joe Bassett looked up, annoyance plain on his face, but he didn't 
pay much attention to the Negro, not at first. He just looked toward 
the noise. But as the slaps on the sugar can grew louder, he began to 
glance nervously away from the preacher's wife. Lucy was banging 
hell out of the can, and suddenly she began to chant in singsong: 
"Yassuh, Ah wants collahds, yassuh, Ah wants snapbeans, yassuh. . . ." 
. Old man Bassett shuffled to the middle of the store and stood watch- 
ing the Negro. I could see red anger moving up his throat till his 
face burned with it, and his voice was tight as a bowstring. "What 
you want, Nigger?" 

"What Ah want ? Ah wants uh piecer meat. Ah wants som' god- 
damn meat n' uh pounder lahd." 

Old man Bassett didn't say anything, but he edged in toward her 
like a cat creeping up. 

She was smiling, and then she wasn't. She was watching Joe Bassett 
coming, staring wide-eyed as if she couldn't see anything else. Her 
mouth opened and shut, but no sound came. Then suddenly her body 
was released into violent action as she twisted and threw herself toward 
the door, running clumsily till she tripped and fell. 

When she sat up, she didn't look frightened any more. "Yuh knock 
me down. Ah run n' yuh hit me. But yuh gon' wish yuh hadn', ole 
man, goddamn yo stinkin' soul tuh hell." 

As she was pushing up from the floor, Joe Bassett's foot lashed out 
and caught her full in the mouth. She staggered backward, falling, 
smashing against a counter. I saw it happen, and I knew the temper 
of the old man, but the whole thing seemed incredible. 

Lucy half rose, holding her hand to her mouth till blood oozed 
through her fingers and dropped to the floor. "Ah ain' gon' fuhget 
dis, ole man. Ah'm gon' tell 'bout you'n dat woman. Nuthin' lak 
dat fools Lucy. Ah'm gon' fix yuh." 



322 Fred Shaw 

"You bitch. You black bitch." Before the shrill scream died in his 
throat, Joe Bassett was running, stumbling back to a barrel in the 
shadows, trembling and gasping as he snatched out an axe handle. 
He had headed back toward the Negro when the preacher's wife caught 
him by the shoulders. 

"Don't kill her, Joe. Don't . . . don't . . . don't. Oh, God, oh, God." 
She hung on his arms while he twisted and squirmed, trying to shake 
her off. And when he finally broke loose from her, the Negro woman 
was gone. 

There was no understanding Milltown. Dozing in the sun, she 
looked warm and soft and fat. Awakened, she might come purring 
and rubbing about your legs, blinking cheerfully at you while the dust 
she had stirred settled back to earth. But, again, she might slash out 
and leave a long red gash on your arm. You could look at the blood 
dropping from the wound and reflect on her waywardness, but it didn't 
do any good then. It was too late. 

Milltown troubled and fascinated me. I could sit in Doctor Mac's 
office on a Saturday night and know how business was going at the 
Diddy Wah Diddy, a roadhouse on the edge of town, and at the Silver 
Dollar, the saloon around the corner. Boys still wet behind the ears 
joked with Big Doc while he tied up gaping slashes in their scalps — 
"hemstitching the heroes," he called it. 

I had to know about Milltown, and so I walked the streets. I sat 
on the bench under the water oak, listening to her men talk, hearing 
weird stories of things that went on behind the doors of the town. 
At night I drifted about, watching shadows moving on the shades of 
lighted windows, stopping for a moment to chat with men hunched 
over a drugstore table, with farmers gathered at a street corner, watch- 
ing schoolboys play pool under an inverted cone of light. Through 
the stores went Milltown's people, white and black. 

One night Lucy followed me out of Levy's store; and when we were 
in front of Doctor Warren's house, where the oaks spread thick shadows 
on the ground, she touched my arm. 

"Ah ain' talkin' 'bout 'em, boss man." She nodded toward Joe 
Bassett's store. "Dat woman wuz good tuh me." She made a soft 
clucking sound with her lips. "But ole man Bassett, now. Ah ain' 
fuhgettin' him, boss man. Ah'm gon' fix him sho'." Soft and gentle 
was her laughter, but I didn't want to be old man Bassett. 



Not Darkness, But in Shadows 323 

After a while I got to feel that I could read the moods of Milltown. 
I would be sitting in the drugstore at night reading the newspapers 
and listening to the nickelodeon, idly watching occasional stragglers 
come in to drink Coca-Cola at the fountain, when I would see some- 
thing on a man's face, violence, or passion, or fear — I never quite knew. 
Sometimes I would sit there waiting for the thing to happen while a 
tightness started low in my belly and moved up till it was like a cord 
on my throat. Or I would go up to the dingy hotel room and lie flat 
on the bed, listening to guns shooting and dogs barking off in the 
night and wondering what they meant. 

I had to know about Milltown, and so I followed the talk of the 
town, from the lazy bench under the water oak to the drugstore pre- 
scription room. Wherever men talked, I would go. That's the way 
I started going to the City Barber Shop. There were two regular 
barbers and one who came in on Saturday, but two of them didn't 
count; it was the owner of the place, Jake Pegram, "Cousin Jake" they 
called him, who packed the boys in. When I first saw him, he was 
standing back of his chair, fat, bald, looking like an egg except that he 
was bigger in the middle and a little shinier on top. He was all grey 
except for his eyes, which were bluer than a jay bird's wing. I got a 
haircut, but it was the only thing I got — no gossip, no football talk. 
Cousin Jake was the world's most taciturn barber, I reckon. 

"Shave?" he asked after he had cut my hair. 

"No. But I tell you what, though. My hair's started falling out, 
and I wondered if you couldn't tell me what I could do for it." 

Before answering me he rubbed his hand back and forth over his 
shiny head. "Well now, I dunno that I can. But when I was a boy 
and went to the barber shop, the barber'd cut my hair and then he'd 
say Tonic ?' I'd always say no." 

He didn't crack a smile, and after a minute he said dryly, "Tonic?" 

"Unhunh. And lay it on thick." 

Afterwards we were friends. It was as simple as that. 

I used to go in there two or three times a week and listen to men 
talk. It was important to the life of the town, that barber shop was — 
a sort of town hall, athletic club, and literary guild in one. Almost 
everything that Milltown did or thought or felt got a hearing there. 
I can still see old Rob Bangs opening his mouth and shifting his quid 
of tobacco around and J. B. Patton, the newspaper editor, grinning so 



324 Fred Shaw 

widely you could see the black stubs of his teeth. "It's like I say. If 
Gene Talmadge is elected governor, Georgia's going to hell." 

And Cousin Jake looked owlishly over his glasses, "Well now, that 
farmer in town yesterday wouldn't have agreed with you." 

"What 'd'ye say, Cousin?" 

Jake's voice rose shrill and harsh, mimicking the nasal drawl of the 
backwoodsman. "Y God, there's one thing about ole Gene, y God. 
He got shet of ole Hoover. Har, har, har." 

The men threw back their heads and laughed, slapping their hands 
on their thighs. They would sit around all evening waiting for one 
like that. 

Cousin Jake had a reputation for wit and wisdom, but I'm not going 
to be able to make you see him as I did. So much depended on the 
way he said things — slowly and dryly — and the way he looked after he 
said them — solemn and owlish except for a faint flicker of a smile at 
the corner of his mouth. But his belly would be shaking with laughter. 

After Benjy Few came in with the big catfish he caught in Puddin 
Creek, Cousin Jake said, "Don't say it, Benjy. Don't say a word, 'cause 
whoever caught that fish is a damn liar." 

And when someone told him that Joe Bassett had threatened to kill 
Lucy if she ever again came in his store, Cousin Jake said, "I wish Joe'd 
stick to harmless sinning, like laying the preacher's wife." He was 
serious that time; his belly didn't quiver. 

It was good to sit in that wooden shack, its soot-streaked walls blaz- 
ing with Fitch and Lucky Tiger and Kreml posters showing fortunate 
youngsters who used tonic regularly and sad-eyed dodos who didn't; 
you sat there smelling the powder and those sharp, sweet liquids that 
barbers pour on defenseless heads, hearing the whirr of the clippers 
and the snip, snip, snip of scissors, and hearing too the talk and laughter 
that were as much a part of the place as the rotten, springy boards at 
the back of the shop. The door would fling open, and a man would 
come shivering out of the night, stamping the mud off his feet and 
wiping the fog from his glasses. 

"Well, Doctor Mac, they do say ole Mary Jane Newton is took bad 
with her heart." 

"No. No, she ain't. Mary Jane's the laziest and most hysterical 
woman in the flatwoods. But it ain't gon' kill 'er. No, I reckon it 
won t. 



Not Darkness, But in Shadows 325 

And the night the Baptist revival opened so hot that you could hear 
"Power in the Blood," "Shall We Gather at the River," and "The Old 
Rugged Cross" when the clippers weren't whirring, Rob Bangs spat a 
little of? center and said that it was "high time. Ole Lem Davis's due 
to git sanctified about oncet a year." 

Cousin Jake squinted over his glasses and said, "Well, I reckon we 
needn't worry till we'n hear 'Jesus Is Tenderly Calling.' They don't 
sing that ; they moo it. And when they get so full of the spirit that the 
moo floats right under that door, we'n look for trouble. It's coming." 

"Man Eater" Hall, the grave, timid shine-boy, came in for much 
good-humored ribbing, but he didn't seem to mind it. Occasionally 
he would show his teeth in a slow smile. More often, however, when 
he wasn't stoking the wood stove or making a shine rag play a tune 
on brogans, he was bent over problems on the checkerboard — practicing 
against the time when Cousin Jake would be free to play with him. 
The teasing went on. 

"Eater, what ju' ole woman say when she left you?" 

"Ah'll sue yuh later." That was one the men taught him; they 
liked to spring it when strangers were in the shop. 

Something happened one of the first nights I visited the barber 
shop, but it didn't mean much to me then. Bud Walker stuck his 
red face in from the cold outside, smelling up the shop with whisky 
fumes before he was in the door. Cousin Jake paused in his work 
and looked at the shine-boy; Man Eater nodded and walked out the 
door. An hour later he was back, scratching at the alley door till 
someone let him in. 

They had repeated that little pattern four or five times before I 
realized that Cousin Jake was trying to keep Man Eater clear of trouble. 

By that time I had learned a good bit about Jake by piecing together 
scraps of information. Rob Bangs helped some. "Naw, we don't talk 
much about Niggers 'round the shop. Cousin Jake gets so het up it 
embarrasses him. He ain't no Nigger lover, mind you; he jest thinks 
they's human. It's a damfool notion, but if he likes it, we don't aim 
to pester him." 

Jake helped too. I asked him once why he drank so much, and 
before answering he looked at me so long that I blushed. "You've 
been hearing people talk, boy. I don't drink like they say. Nobody 
does. But when I get plumb fed up with life, I drink till I don't think 
about it any more." 



326 Fked Shaw 

I had seen him when the life sickness was upon him, and I had 
heard him too— even before I came to know him. He would come 
lumbering, shuffling up by the hotel, singing always the same song— a 
slow, melancholy tune, singing loudly enough that I could hear him 
in my room over the street: 

The nits and the lice were walking the jice 
When one of them slipped and said Jesus Christ, 
It's so low, so damp, Bowling Green jail. 

I would watch him waddling through the light at the crossing and into 
the shadows and the darkness. 

It was a dark night when it happened, dark and warmer than it had 
been and windy too, so that I thought it would rain. That night the 
Baptist revival crowd sang "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling," and when they 
came to the chorus, "Calling today . . . calling today . . . Jesus is 
calling ... is tenderly calling today," they mooed with such fervor that 
the words floated out through the darkness and came up under the door 
of the barber shop. I wasn't there, but I know they did. I know it. 

It was the last night of what Milltown called "the protracted meet- 
ing," and I was alone in the Blue Goose. I had offered to stay in the 
lobby and register any transients who came room hunting so that the 
others could go down to hear the final exhortations of the preacher. 
When they returned, I didn't pay much attention to them. I hardly 
looked up from my reading as they mumbled their good nights and 
went on, the other inmates to their rooms upstairs, the hotel owner 
and her little boy to the parlor and family apartment that opened from 
the lobby. 

Why I began to lose interest in my book, I don't know; but my rest- 
lessness probably had something to do with the sputtering old man 
who came in looking for Mrs. Moss. As I showed him to the parlor 
door, I knew vaguely that the old sputterfuss was her lawyer; I had 
seen him there before. But if for a moment his flushed cheeks inter- 
ested me, there was only a fleeting curiosity; that was all. Then I 
turned back to my reading, dismissing the old man's obvious excite- 
ment from my mind and settling back in my chair. But it wasn't 
the same. Bony ridges that I hadn't felt before rubbed my back, the 
light on the book was dim, and my eyes kept straying from the page. 



Not Darkness, But in Shadows 327 

I tried going back and picking up paragraphs I had already read, but 
it didn't work. 

I scanned the front page of the Atlanta paper, but finding the news 
as dull as my book, I walked out on the porch, lighted a cigarette and 
sat down, buttoning my jacket against the wind. I was conscious of the 
two inside. At first the voices from the parlor were a muffled stream 
of sound, annoying and meaningless, but after a while words began to 
disentangle themselves from the mass, and I could hear them. 

Still the talk meant almost nothing till something caught my mind 
and I realized that what they were saying was of vital importance to me. 

The man's voice, explosive, excited, was saying, "I'm telling you, 
Gussie, I'm telling you. They've got the Lord's purpose in their hearts, 
Joe Bassett and the rest. They're going to run every one of 'em out of 
town." 

"Every one?" 

"Every one. Every prostitute, every gambler, every drunkard. Joe 
and his crowd are just waiting for them to go to bed. Then they're 
gonna get 'em, Gussie, I'm telling you." 

"It's good enough for them. This is a Christian town, and it's too 
good for sinners. Who all has to go?" 

"I thought you'd want to know. There's Jake Pegram. . . ." 

"Him?" 

"Yeah, as the worst of the drunkards. He came in church tonight 
smelling like a brewery." 

I didn't wait for any more. Tiptoeing from the porch, I ran in 
search of Jake Pegram, down the dim streets to the barber shop, to 
the drugstore, to the Silver Dollar. "He wuz here less'n a hour ago, 
but he ain't been back. But he wuz here, Gawd, yes. He'n the stock 
left together. He drunk it." 

Back to the hotel I went more slowly, peering deep into the darkness, 
listening for a voice; but the quiet streets mocked me and the night 
pressed down. When I got to the hotel, I tried to decide what to do. 
And then I heard footsteps and a muffled song from the darkness: 
"The nits and the lice were walking the jice. . . ." 

I was weak with relief, but I caught him by the arm as he came by, 
caught him and jerked him toward me so that he could see my face. 
"Try to listen, Jake, while I tell you something." 

"Well, Joe. Hiya, ole boy. I got a new verse, Joe." 



328 Fred Shaw 

The jailer had a daughter that did what she oughter 
With every ole jailbird that reached out and caughter, 
It's so low, so damp, Bowling Green jail. 

His voice was shaky and staticky because I kept jerking him by his 
coat lapels, pulling his face close up and saying over and over, "You 
gotta listen, Jake, goddamn it, you gotta listen." And when he quieted 
down, I said, "You gotta get out of town." 

He looked at me, blinking owlishly in the half-darkness, and I 
knew he was sober enough to understand me if he would listen. "Well, 
Joe ole boy. Like to hear me sing it, Joe?" 

I struck his face with my open hand and came in close to catch his 
arms. "You gotta get out of town. Listen, Jake, that mooing came in 
the door, like you said. The bigots have put on their war paint. 
They're gonna get you, every prostitute, every gambler, every drunk- 
ard." 

"Say that last part again, Joe." 

I said it again, going over the details slowly, patiently, telling him 
everything I knew; his face was fish-belly white when I finished, and 
his hand was a vice on my arm. "We're going to Nigger town, Joe. 
Come on." 

Walking fast to keep up with him, I kept tugging at his arm. "No, 
no, no. That's just what you don't want to do. You gotta get out of 
town till they quiet down. And you don't understand." 

"I understand, all right." 

Great gusts of wind beat down on us from the south; in the sky 
before us lightning was flickering through rifts in the clouds, glowing 
dimly, fading, brightening again . . . and then, flash and the sky blazed 
up till you could see grey-black clouds twisting and churning and tops 
of pines tossing in the light. Then it was dark again, and we plowed 
through the soft dirt, leaning into the wind, feeling the first raindrops 
on our faces. 

Over and over I was saying to myself, "He's a goddamn fool. He's 
running straight to trouble, and he doesn't know what it's all about." 
We came to a hard stretch in the road, and we ran, stumbling blindly 
in the dark, till my eyes burned and I could taste cotton in my mouth. 
Then we slowed to a walk, while I kept thinking, "He's a fool. He's 
a goddamn blind fool." But I didn't say anything. 



Not Darkness, But in Shadows 329 

After a while Cousin Jake put his hand on my arm, and we stopped. 
When he talked, I could tell he wasn't drunk any more— not with 
whisky anyway, though his passion played over subjects new to our 
talk, black men, white men, and brotherhood. "You gotta see it, Joe. 
Bassett hates Lucy Sutton; they'll go there first and beat her door in and 
put tar and feathers on her. They'll call her a whore 'cause they like 
the sound of it and they don't know the difference. They'll beat hell 
out of a black woman just to hear her howl, but I'm gon' get there first." 

"This is the South, Cousin, you're forgetting that. It's the South, 
and it's Milltown." 

"Yeah, and it's Milltown's shame. You gotta see that, Joe. And if 
ever we come out of it, we'll come together, white man and Nigger." 

A little farther and we came to black shanties huddled in the dark- 
ness at the edge of town, a clump of them at first and then two long 
rows facing a lane that twisted off into the woods. The silence was 
more than silence; the huts were still as their windows, where no lights, 
no shadows moved, and I knew that they knew. At the door of one of 
the houses we paused; Jake knocked and said, "Awright, Lucy," and 
the door opened soundlessly and we slipped in. 

She stood tall in her faded kimono, smiling a little and nodding in 
the friendly way that Negroes have. In the firelight her bronze skin 
was soft and fresh, like a child's, but her eyes were sad. She motioned 
to the chairs beside the fire, and we went over and sat down. She sat 
down too and stirred the pine knots with a stick, sending sparks swirl- 
ing up with the smoke. And after a minute she said quietly, "Ah'm 
glad yuh come, Mist' Jake. Ah'n take care yuh." 

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Cousin Jake start forward, 
his eyebrows raised, but his question died in a rumble in his throat. 
He slumped ponderously back in the chair. It was as if she had waited 
for us. 

We lighted cigarettes and waited, puffing clouds of smoke toward 
the fire. After a while Jake said, "You got a gun, Lucy?" 

She shook her head. "Whut Ah want wid uh gun?" 

"We're here to look after you, Lucy. We ain't gon' let you down." 
He pulled a knot from the wood pile and balanced it in his hand. 
"This might crack a couple of heads, if we work it right," he said. 

"Ah knows whut Ah's doin', Mist' Jake. Yuh don' need dat." She 
chuckled deep in her throat; she grinned at me and winked, her face 



330 Fred Shaw 

screwing up in silent laughter. "Yuh don' need nuthin', not nuthin' 
a-tall." 

The minutes that we sat there dragged out, trailing off into the tap- 
ping of Jake's stick on the hearth, the dry crackling of the flames. 
Outside, a tree frog chirruped, chirruped and was silent; windows 
rattled and pines soughed and snapped when the wind rose, and the 
rain fell softly on the roof. The silence was a living thing that you 
could feel; the tenseness was in my belly, moving up into my throat, 
but I sat still and silent trying not to think — trying not to think, though 
specters pressed down on me. The man is a fool, and the woman is a 
maniac. . . . I'll see their heads cracked together. . . . And he'll loo\ 
like a fat blac\ duc\ in the tar and feathers . . . but it won't be funny 
worth a damn. . . . I'll sit there lifting him . . . and liking her too, feel- 
ing their shame. . . . And maybe they'll cracky my head too. 

I looked at Lucy squatting across the hearth from us, smiling as she 
poked at the fire. Damn all crazy Niggers and barbers. Damn them 
to hell! 

It was quiet, and then suddenly it wasn't. The men were there 
stomping about in the mud, shushing one another when a voice rose 
above a whisper; there must have been about a dozen of them. In the 
distance a dog barked, and then all was still. 

Lucy motioned Cousin Jake to stay where he was, shrugged her 
shoulders when he tiptoed over to the door and raised the pine knot 
above his head. 

Feet clomped on the steps outside, knuckles beat on the door, and 
a shrill voice, an old man's voice, said, "All right, Lucy." 

Lucy walked over and pushed down on the bed, so that the springs 
twanged when she released them. 

The voice insisted, "Open the door, Lucy. I'm comin' in." 

"Don' come in, Daddy Joe. Ah done tole yuh to come tomorruh 
night. Go way now, Daddy Joe. Go way, honey." 

Soft laughter rippled through the crowd. I would have liked to be 
out there in the rain, watching the men looking incredulously, then 
slyly at one another, winking, digging one another in the ribs. I could 
see them laughing unexpectedly, clamping their mouths shut, wanting 
to laugh again. 

"You scarlet bitch, you know what I want. Open that door." 



Not Darkness, But in Shadows 331 

"Yassuh, Daddy Joe, Ah knows, awright. But Ah done tole yuh 
to come tomorruh night. Ah got company now, white man company." 

Laughter exploded outside, roaring in the quiet. You could hear 
men slapping their thighs, coughing, gasping for breath, then going 
off again into rocking laughter. But above the confusion Joe Bassett 
was shouting, "Come on, you fools, let's bust the door in." 

Then a countryman's nasal voice came from the crowd, "No, suh, 
we ain't hankerin' after no woman trouble. We're goin' to town. 
Come on, Pappy. Come on, Daddy Joe." 

I lay down on the bed, buried my face in a pillow, and laughed 
till my belly hurt and tears came to my eyes. And after a long, long 
time Lucy made us some coffee, and we sat by the fire drinking it and 
grinning at one another. 



STONE COUNTRY 

i One Brio hi 
These are true things I saw of which I tell : 

Three pilgrims were we on the road to hell 

Eating the dust of dreams. Jake Silverthorne, 

Bill Wolfskill and this child were taking morn 

With the sting of wind on our mouth, a-setting traps 

In likely river, drinking at running paps 

Of mountains, eating the earth's sweet-tasting flesh. 

I recollect 'twere April and the fresh 

Grass were a-greening the hollows — day and night 

Flew over us like geese in north'ard flight. 

Jake Silverthorne, he said, "Mark, do'ee hear 

Yan to the northern buttes, the beaver's there ? 

My stick floats thataway." We turned our mules 

To the northland and the burnt hills. Dreaming fools! 

This coon's set trap from Knife to Santa Fee, 

From Coasts of Platte to the Californy sea, 

Or I'm poor beaver. I recollect me now, 

As a gangling boy fresh from the furrowing plow 

I came into this country: Yellowstone 

Were a cub of a crick, these mountains were half-grown 

Sand hills, and the trees were sapling trees. 

I've fought the blasted Blackfoot and the Rees, 

And raised me plenty crop of Shian hair. 

Rattlesnakes I've et; and a grizzly bear 

I've rasseled afore now. I've seen the sky 

Rain fire, I have, and this child wouldn't lie. 

And I have seen stone country . . . 

Mighty strange 
It were: 'yond Timpanagos and the range 
Of Stonies stretching south. The fur were thick 
Where we were trapping up a dwindling crick 

332 



Stone Country 333 

That flows from the Paiutahs. It were prime: 
Seven dollars the plew if 'twere a dime! 
We did our possible. Then hills went dry 
As spring dwined into June, June to July; 
Slow-moving devilbirds gloomed on the sky; 
Leaves shriveled, and I mind me wind-whipt dust 
Were like a snow : Our beards were white with frost 
Of drifted sand. 

We climbed a range and crossed 
To a hard-bitten land. The Injuns there 
Were small and scrawny with big eyes a-stare 
Like owl-eyes in the dark. 'Twere none as knowed 
That country in our band. There were no road 
To tell us which way; and rank water stood 
Black in the hollow rocks and thick as blood. 
The grass were ghost-grass in that bitter land, 
Greasewood and mesquite grew there and the sand 
Were hell-fire on our feet. The nooning suns 
Beat hammers on our brain. And bleaching bones 
Burned on our eyes: The white skull-faces grinned. 

Thinking of dead men dust on the desert wind 

Slow we moved and silent. Our food were grass 

And moccasin parfleche. This here coon'll pass 

The ante if 'tain't starving doings, wagh ! 

Then Wolfskill shot a kiote in a draw 

And we made meat and et. Come dawn we saw 

Snow mountains edging sky. Our waterskins 

Went empty, and our bellies ganted, thin's 

A crane's leg; and our tongues cracked; and our lips 

Dropped the slow ooze of blood as the red meat drips 

Fat on the scorching coals. From there we went 

The journey of a day: Our mules were spent 

And so mule were our meat, mule-blood our drink, 

And our bread were roots. ... On wind-gnawed brink 

Of death we marched : afore us many ridges 

Of naked stone in the way. The crazy midges 

Pranced on the sand . . . 



334 Vernb Bright 

Come morning-break we stood 
On a clift of rock. Afore us were a wood, 
Green, and the grass were green, and birds were singing 
Fit to break their pretty throats and ringing 
In our ears like heaven music. "Bill, hurraw!" 
Yelps Silverthorne, "Here's April doings, wagh!" 
And there were water shining in the sun; 
And grouse a-squawkin'. I ups my rifle-gun. 
"Here goes for meat!" says I, and cracks a bird 
Plumb center. Dang my hindsights, take my word, 
Ifn his head went one way, slick as glass, 
And his body t'other, and him still squawkin'. Grass 
Were sharp as knives and cut the hosses' mouth. 
"Here's wet wood and no flint and the wind are south P' 
Says I. "Here's flint!" says old Wolf skill and takes 
His hatchet to a tree ; a shower of flakes 
Flew like snow in February . . . Which 
It were stone country or I'm a whelping bitch. 
Everything were stone: The buffalo-berries 
Were emeralds, dang my eyes! and the red chokecherries 
Were rubies, bright as blood, and the sweet wild plums 
Were garnet jewels bigger nor my thumbs, 
And the crick were solid diamond, yes-siree ! 
Dabbled with morning light as ye ever see. 

We filled our ruck-sacks and juned out of there 
Richer nor Astor. Our hearts were big, I swear, 
And singing squamptious. No more freezing, wagh! 
Wading for beaver : We would trap a squaw, 
A white one, down San Louiee way, and blow 
Our jewels like a bourshway, we would so! 
But hell! stone fruit and yarbs are mighty poor 
Feeding for critters; we damn nigh starved afore 
We hit game country. Our last cayuse went 
For potluck. And them jewels all were spent 
To buy another day of living; left 
Them by the trail, we did, to ease the heft 
Of packs on galling shoulders. . . . 



After Branding Calves 335 

Well, at last, 
We shet that buzzard's pasture, and we passed 
Into a country sweet as hills of home 
The wild orchards heavy with autumn, the cool loam 
Spicing our nose with its smell. The hungry days 
Forgotten, we built a cabin in that place 
And trapped. . . . 

And laughed alive. . . . 

Now, Sam, harkee, 
Three pilgrims out of hell we were, that spree. 



AFTER BRANDING CALVES 

Conrad Pendleton 

My brand now hanging from a post 

Smells yet of smoking hair, 

And there's a lasso rope, almost 

In two, below it, and a few 

Dim sparks still in the branding fire the thick day 

Sinks into. 

But I am through 
With branding now till fall 
Except with this I stare 
Twice over at and cannot blink away: 
My brand 

Unblurs and blurs, its Bar-Z smoking-hot 
In dusty heat and panting hide; 
The cows outside 

Mill back and forth along the rails and bawl — 
Bawl frantic to their calves. 



336 Conrad Pendleton 



My hand 
Still feels the circle of the handle-grip, 
The squirm of every branded hip, 
And I keep hearing from the branding lot 
Or seem to hear 

(The herd is pastured out of ear) 
Bawling calves in dust and dung 
'Twixt snubbing-post and saddle horn. 

I'm branding-tired 
As any hand I've hired 

This season, though my reason's more than pay; 
There were so many calves to brand and 
Ear-crop without a pause or undertone 
Of mercy. 

Now 
I'm tired — too tired to trouble how 
We'll trail the herd to open land 
To summer out in grass and sun — 
Too over-tired to find 
In branding, any fact full as the one 
Of branding calves to mark them as my own — 
Calves bellowing in heat and dust across my mind. 




The Snake Without a Friend 



Virginia Duncan 



IF THERE IS a critter in this world without a friend, it is the rattle- 
snake. Prairie dogs bury rattlesnakes alive; dogs kill them; eagles, 
hawks, chaparral cocks, turkeys, chickens, hogs, and cannibalistic 
snakes eat them. Obeying an unwritten law of the range never to 
leave a rattlesnake alive, ranchers kill them to protect livestock. Many 
people collect them as a hobby or for canning, laboratory experiments, 
zoos, and reptile gardens, and for production of antivenins. It is 
amazing that the rattlesnake has survived at all. 

When I was a child in West Texas, I saw a medium-sized rattle- 
snake disappearing into a prairie-dog hole. There wasn't a prairie 
dog anywhere to be seen. As the last rattle passed out of sight, prairie 
dogs bobbed up everywhere. In an instant dozens of chattering little 
animals, with their tails jerking, were scratching dirt into the hole. 
When the hole was filled, they tamped the soft earth down with their 
heads. The prairie dogs ganged up on that rattlesnake ; by using their 
fast paws as shovels and their hard heads as bulldozers they interred 
their common enemy. 

Years later Sonnie Noelke, West Texas ranchman, told me that 
while he was killing off the prairie dogs on his ranch he often found 
holes filled with fresh dirt. Digging out the holes he discovered that 
they had dead snakes in them. If just a little dirt is thrown in a hole 
on a rattlesnake, he comes out fighting mad, but if a lot of dirt is 
packed in on him he can't get out. 

In their battles with rattlesnakes, chaparral cocks (commonly known 
as road runners) dart at the snake until it strikes, and then peck at 
the snake's eyes and head. Eagles and hawks feint several times until 
the snake uncoils and then seize it with their talons. They catch the 
snake behind the head with one talon and about the middle of the 

337 



338 Virginia Duncan 

body with the other. If a bunch of turkeys find a rattlesnake, the 
hens usually stand to one side or go on about their business and the 
gobblers kill the snake. They peck at it and strike at it with their 
wings. Chickens often eat the baby rattlers. They attack them just 
as they would a worm. 

The javelina or Mexican hog is fond of snakes. In sections where 
hogs are raised, few rattlesnakes are found. Many times I have »een 
a fat sow with a snake in her mouth, running and squealing in her 
attempt to eat the snake without sharing it with a dozen other pigs. 
Generally, hogs are immune to snake bite because their subcutaneous 
layer of fat retards absorption of venom. 

Some dogs kill rattlesnakes wherever they find them. We had a 
fox terrier once that always trotted ahead of us in a trail and she 
found a snake if it was anywhere near our path. I never saw her 
fail to attack one. She killed dozens of rattlesnakes in her lifetime. 

The coachwhip, indigo, and king snakes include rattlesnakes in their 
diet. I once saw a king snake swallowing a rattlesnake which looked 
larger in circumference than the king snake. I wondered by what 
law of dimensions the feat could be accomplished. But after thirty 
minutes there was a thoroughly stuffed king snake and no rattle- 
snake. . . . 

Two girls, visiting at our ranch near Knickerbocker, Texas, went 
horseback riding with me. I took them by an old cemetery on the 
west side of our pasture. According to a local legend a mammoth 
diamondback lived in the rock fence around the cemetery, and I was 
orally stretching this legendary character beyond the bounds of the 
species when, suddenly, there it was! Talk about speaking of the 
Devil — he sure appeared in true form in this case. That rattlesnake 
looked like a big pile of salt and pepper with his black and ringed 
tail contrasting so sharply with the rest of him that it looked as if it 
was tacked onto the wrong snake. He was making such a racket 
with his rattling that our horses threatened to stampede. We were 
all nearly scared to death, but I wanted to prove to my daddy that I 
had killed "the big snake" I'd heard about for years; so I got the other 
girls to help me kill it. I don't blame them for being scared, because 
it was the first rattlesnake either of them had seen outside of a zoo, 
and I was scared because it was the biggest snake I had ever seen. We 
chunked rocks at it for an hour before one of us landed a direct hit 
and its humming rattling slowed to a weak, muffled crackling; the 



The Sna{e Without a Friend 339 

triangular head bowed reluctantly onto a flat rock, and I finished the 
job with my boot heel. 

By the time we got through fighting the rattlesnake our horses were 
plenty skittish. They went temperamental on us and refused to carry 
the snake. We simply couldn't leave the evidence of the biggest snake 
story of our lives between two scrubby catclaw bushes on a rocky hill- 
side. I knew that we could put it on my saddle if we had something 
to cover it with so the horses couldn't smell it or see it. I had a new 
suede jacket on my saddle, but I didn't want to put the snake in that. 
So one of the girls pulled off her stockings and we put them on the 
rattlesnake — one over his head and the other over his tail — rolled 
him in the jacket, and tied him on the saddle. At the ranch house 
we proudly displayed our big game. It was over six feet long with a 
ten-inch girth and weighed slightly over twelve pounds. There were 
fifteen rattles still attached, and there is no telling how many were 
knocked off. 

The Mexicans skinned the diamondback for us and my sister made 
the skin into a belt. The three of us took turns wearing it to high 
school. Since it was four inches wide, we looked like we were saddled 
when we wore it, but what it lacked in glamour it made up for as a 
conversation-piece. 

My brother, Charles, and I were engaged in a permanent feud based 
on his kidding me about my crooked rock-throwing. He looked at 
the big dead snake and said that he didn't believe we had killed it 
with rocks. I walked right into his trap and offered to show him the 
spot, forgetting that we had thrown a powerful lot of rocks at that 
snake. He took one look at the battleground and fell off his horse 
and rolled on the ground in a convulsion of laughter. "I knew it," 
he howled, "you didn't kill that snake. You just built a rock fence 
around him and it caved in on the poor thing!" 

Rattlesnake skins are sometimes used for ornaments such as fancy 
belts, hatbands, billfolds, purses, boot inlays, and gauntlet tops. The 
diamondbacks' skins vary so much in background color that it is hard 
to find two alike. For days I had looked for a matching pair to make 
a hatband and belt to wear to the Midland rodeo. One hot summer 
day I was working sheep. A bunch cut back at the gate. To head 
them off, I took a short cut through an oak thicket where there was 
a lot of underbrush. My horse reared suddenly. Lying side by side 
in the narrow trail and almost under my horse were two diamondbacks. 



340 Virginia Duncan 

They were about four feet long and had just shed. Their dark dia- 
mond patterns were almost black on a light salt-and-pepper-colored 
background. Immediately I visualized my belt and hatband. I bagged 
my hatband with a rock but my belt crawled into a hole near by. I 
killed and skinned the first victim and dug the other out of the hole 
with a grubbing hoe. I suppose at that rodeo I was the most diamond- 
bedecked woman who ever slapped leather on a cayuse. 

Western diamondbacks have been found as high as 5,000 feet above 
sea level. The western diamondbacks usually hibernate during the 
cold months. They are very sensitive to cold, and it is the tempera- 
ture rather than the season that determines the length of their hiber- 
nation. In the extreme southern part of Texas and in northern Mexico 
they have been seen crawling every month in the year. 

Usually western diamondbacks den up during the winter in moun- 
tain caves, under overhanging rocks in ravines and canyons, and in 
ledgy hills. As they seek protection from the north winds they are 
found much more frequently in dens on the south side of hills. They 
go into hibernation about the time of the first frost in the fall and 
come out in search of food after the last frost in spring. I have found 
them under shocks of feed in the fields in late fall when they were 
caught out by an early cold spell, and they were so stiff from the cold 
they couldn't move. You could pick them up by the tail and the 
kinks wouldn't come out of their spines. They looked just like old 
crooked sticks. When I saw snakes in a shape like that, I always 
thought of the story Boyce House told me: "Two cowboys were sent 
out one winter to get some posts to fix up the fence. Trees were scarce 
but they found a lot of queer-looking crooked sticks which, on closer 
examination, proved to be frozen snakes— so the cowboys used them to 
string the wire on. The plan worked fine till spring came and the 
snakes thawed out and wiggled away, leaving three miles of fence 
that had to be fixed up again." . . . 

When approached out in the open the rattlesnake almost invariably 
rattles, but if it is protected by a log or bush, it may lie perfectly quiet 
—depending on silence for protection. If the rattle does not halt the 
approach of its enemy, the rattlesnake raises the forepart of its body 
into an S-shaped spiral ready to strike. Any person or animal observ- 
ing the snake in that threatening position is not likely to approach 
within striking distance. I have watched diamondbacks hold this 
pose for many minutes. If I made no move, the snake would finally 



The Sna\e Without a Friend 341 

stop rattling and retreat to the nearest covering, but it always kept its 
head held high with that threatening lateral-s curve in the forebody. 
Having noticed such behavior in the rattlesnake, I know that some 
tall tales are just extensions of the truth. Boyce House told me a story 
once about Sagebrush Sam who, I am inclined to think, was not 
stretching the blanket too much when he related this experience: "The 
other day I was asleep under a mesquite tree when I felt a pressure, 
and as I opened my eyes, there was a rattlesnake on my chest. He was 
coiled and if I made a move for my pistol or tried to jump up, he 
woulda struck me quick as lightnin'." 

"What did you do?" someone asked. 

"I saw there wasn't nothin' I could do; so I just went back to sleep." 

Many times I have annoyed a rattlesnake with a long stick until it 
would strike four or five times in succession, but I never saw one show 
any inclination to chase me. It can't strike over half its length. I 
used to watch Trixie, my little fox terrier, make rattlesnakes strike 
and she seemed to know just about how close she could get to them 
without being in danger. She was a fair snake-fighter. She would 
bark and dart toward the snake until it struck, then she would side- 
step the blow. Finally the snake would be a split second slow in re- 
coiling, and Trixie would grab it in her teeth back of its head and 
shake it into a dozen pieces. This was when Trixie could make the 
snake come out in the open to fight. Sometimes she would find one 
under a log or scrubby catclaw bush or a prickly pear and it wouldn't 
strike. Trixie would try all her shadow-boxing tricks first, then go 
under after it. In doing this she was frequently bitten. After rubbing 
her head in the dirt a few moments, with her stubby little tail tucked 
and her swelling head held low, she would run to the house. Mother 
would treat the wound. Trixie would go under the house, dig a hole 
in a cool place, put her head against the damp earth, and stay until 
the swelling went down. Then she came out thin and hungry and 
ready to hunt more rattlesnakes. She was bitten many times and each 
bite affected her less. 

At times I have come upon a rattlesnake lying coiled in a shaded 
path and if I was walking slowly, it would first rattle softly, sounding 
exactly like the locust. It was apparently too lazy to move. If I stood 
quietly and watched it, several minutes would pass before it would 
rattle again. But when I hit it with a rock it would rear its head and 



342 Virginia Duncan 

rattle so furiously it sounded like a pressure cooker when the safety 
valve pops open. 

The senses of sight and smell are well developed in rattlesnakes, but 
they do not hear in the ordinary sense of the word. Tests made by one 
herpetologist on a selected group of rattlesnakes proved that they paid 
no attention to loud noises made very near their heads but they did 
respond when a chair was scraped on the floor or a footstep caused 
vibrations through the floor. 

The forked tongue which is continually flicked in and out is an 
aid to smelling and helps the snake determine the kind of ground it 
is crawling over. When it flicks its tongue out the two points touch 
the ground lightly. One herpetologist says: "This very sensitive tongue 
can pick up odor particles in the air and transfer them to the two tiny 
cavities in the front of the roof of the mouth. These pits are lined 
with sensory cells and are known as Jacobson's organ." The rattle- 
snake's vision is very keen, for I have seen one prepare to defend itself 
when I was fifteen yards away. 

And it is small wonder that the rattlesnake is always instinctively 
on the defensive. He had better be ! Hounded incessantly by enemies, 
attacked by man while he is attacking other enemies of man, the 
rattlesnake leads a disagreeable and uncertain life. And to cap it all, 
rattlesnakes don't even seem to like each other. In one case I know 
two rattlesnakes bit each other. The smaller one died three hours 
later. The larger one was all but dead six hours after the bite. 




Ear thy- Ann 

Ruby Pickens Tartt 

AT Tishabee, a small settlement on the Tombigbee River some 
half dozen miles from a railroad, I was directed to a dilapidated 
old house set back from the dirt road in a field so utterly worn out that 
nothing but dog fennel would grow there. The house was once occu- 
pied by Bob Hawkins, "Marse Bob" as the Negroes called him, and 
"Miss Ca'line." They had left it to their only son Charles Darwin 
Hawkins, one of the local intelligentsia, said to have some rare old 
books which I wanted to see. 

The low picket fence was almost completely down. The once large 
chimney in the back bedroom had fallen, and part of the roof was open 
to the sky. Through the gaping doorway and broken windowpanes 
could be seen a rusty old stove, several plow handles, a grey stone jar, 
and other useless impedimenta mingled with the dust of the years. 
There were no steps at the front of the house. Instead, a tangled mass 
of wistaria vines sprawled along the rotting gallery, and here and there 
small green lizards darted, their crimson throats inflated in fright like 
tiny toy balloons. 

No one answered my "hello," the customary greeting of country 
people; so I pulled myself up by one of the rickety old pillars and 
made my way with difficulty to the door, a door which seemed to 
have a kinship with the vines that curled around it. I started to knock, 
but there was such a sense of desolation brooding over the seemingly 
abandoned house that I drew back in dread. But my trip had been a 
long and tiresome one, the wheels of the swaying old buggy grinding 
over small rocks along a worn and rough road; so I was determined 
to arouse someone, anyone on the place. In a last attempt I wandered 
around toward the back and there met a half-witted old Negro man, 
who very politely, though with an odd detachment, invited me to walk 

343 



344 Ruby P. Tartt 

in and "res' my hat," adding, "Mr. Charlie done stepped down de road 
a piece, but he'll be back by fust dusk." I eagerly accepted the invita- 
tion and entered the poorly lighted back-hall. 

There were several small pieces of mid-Victorian furniture, though 
nothing of any interest. However, in one corner, hung with cobwebs, 
stood an early American piece, a small cupboard. It was so covered 
with grease and dirt I rather felt than saw that it was pine. Almost 
all of the small thin panes of glass were out from one door, and the 
other door hung on a broken hinge. On the shelves were two small 
stacks of old plates, three lovely ones of milk glass and a few of blue 
printed ware. Gossipy legend has it that there was once a pair of 
exquisite and rare Sandwich compotes and a half dozen goblets, a 
variant of the "Tree of Life" design. Only one small broken compote 
remained and one of the goblets, both so covered with dust that it was 
impossible to tell the design of either. 

Farther down the long hall which bisected the main body of the 
house was a small horsehair trunk open, and in a tilted tray I saw, in 
tragic contrast, a pair of new cheap silk socks, an old, red silk tie, a 
Victorian glove box made of tiny shells, an old lace fan and the faded 
ink on a yellowed letter. Near the front door and facing me was what 
must have been part of an old settle-chair, a combination table and 
chair, and opening to the right was the parlor, a room which gave a 
subtle insight into glory and decay, a picture which told its own story. 

As I looked through the half-open double doors I thought of Ham- 
let's cry, "my tables, my tables," for there were some half-dozen of 
these, the maimed, the halt, and the blind of the furniture world, with 
feet and legs of infinite variety. There was an inlaid fruit-wood, 
stained black, which stood beside a very old butterfly table with one 
wing missing. Stacked in a corner were odd and broken table legs, 
bandy, cabriole, and straight, and on top of a smashed-in, rosewood 
love seat were two turned spiral legs. 

As my eyes became used to the dimness of the room, they picked out 
an old piano stool covered with worn, red plush and moth-eaten ball 
fringe. Scattered on top of the outmoded square piano, I could see 
variously: a large family album, several daguerreotypes, an assortment 
of sea shells, and copies of old songs with torn and mildewed pages. 
On the wall above were two hollow-cut silhouettes, one an aristo- 
cratically high-nosed gentleman, the other a young and engagingly 
pretty woman. On the simple old mantel were two painted porcelain 



Earthy-Ann 345 

vases and a small figure which I imagine was of Derby bisque, whose 
mate no doubt had shared the fate of other treasurers, spoils of many 
generations. Above this hung a picture of a ship which for accuracy 
of modeling would defy criticism. To the right stood a wing chair, 
deep and hospitable, with high back and soiled tidy. The brass andirons 
in the large, open fireplace were almost hidden with torn letters, old 
hinges, a doorknob or two, tobacco, and tin cans, and over it all hung 
an aroma of wood ashes, though from the faded letters it was evident 
no fire had been lighted for years. On a small, marble-top, Victorian 
table directly under a window stood an etched hurricane glass, one of 
the loveliest I have ever seen. And strange to say this fragile piece 
was in perfect condition. It covered a simple Sheffield-plate candlestick. 

A queer, heterogeneous collection, I said to myself, and I turned to 
leave; for while most old houses with their mellow flavor radiate a 
subtle sympathy and understanding, my reaction to this destruction 
was that of suffocating disgust. Besides, the slovenly carelessness and 
mustiness of soiled lace curtains and worn-out carpets made me feel 
faint, and I felt the immediate need of fresh air. 

In turning I faced, though it was partly hidden now by the open 
door, the tall bookcase or secretary, piled high with the books I had 
come to see. Ordinarily I might have greeted the sight of this collection 
as a heaven-sent opportunity, for here at last I thought was something 
valuable which the old homesteader had fostered and which had not 
perished. Here were books of a family whose reading, I had been told, 
over a period of many years was incredibly wide. 

From the moment I entered the old house, I had the feeling of being 
companioned by the past ; but somehow it was not the feeling of gentle, 
unobtrusive and friendly "ghosts" which one is so apt to feel in the 
presence of old and bethumbed books, but it was that of less under- 
standing, though invisible tenants. 

I stood still, torn between an insatiable desire to investigate this rare 
literary find and to seek relief from the mustiness of the past. Sud- 
denly I became conscious of titles of several books on the shelf directly 
on a level with my eye, Darwin's The Origin of Species, The Descent 
of Man, and other books of philosophy. 

There was hardly a second between this and the sound of shuffling 
feet coming through what sounded like an empty room, and the clang 
of a door being closed. Then a voice which I can never forget, but can 
only describe as being so lifeless and flat that one might walk on it, said : 



346 Ruby P. Tartt 

"You better git out of here, 'cause Mr. Charlie ain't goin' to like no- 
body rummagin' round 'mongst his things." 

Had an owl darted from the rafters and perched on my head I would 
not have been surprised, but this was so totally unexpected that for a 
moment I was actually frightened. I turned quickly. Standing across 
the room with bare arms hanging limp at her side was a Negro woman, 
barefooted, in a loose, soiled, blue dress and faded head-handkerchief, 
her face so curiously grey, and her eyes so dull that she appeared incased 
in a fog. Silence followed, broken only by a tree branch which scraped 
the window to and fro. Small wonder that I should forget for the 
moment the chance of discovering a rare first edition, or the stale air 
which had seemed so unbearable; but the amazing thing was that, 
though my imaginary fears had so completely upset me, the sight of a 
soul so withered and desolate should somehow restore my confidence. 

I tried as best I could to explain why I was there. I had heard that 
Mr. Hawkins would dispose of his books, I said, and I was anxious 
to see them as I was deeply interested. 

"Yes," she interrupted, "I wish to de Lawd he had a got rid of them 
a long time ago; they ain' never done him no good nor nobody else, 
if you ask me." 

She walked slowly into the room through the door where I had 
entered and down the hall. 

"The front door done been boarded up. Don't nobody never come 
here no mo'," she said, putting into that cryptic sentence all that I had 
felt. Here was a once proud place now tuned in a minor key to a 
jumble of shattering discords. 

I followed her down the back steps and across a narrow plank walk 
to a small cabin in the yard. "Won't you stop and talk with me just 
a moment," I said, "and tell me something about yourself and where 
you came from?" (Her dialect was different from that of the Alabama 
Black Belt Negro.) 

With an apparent distrust not only of me but of life in general, in 
that same haunting and strange dialect, she answered : 

"I ain' got nothin to tell, 'cause I don't know nothin'. I'se Earthy- 
Ann. My mammy call me dat 'cause she say I'se so long growin' up 
frum de earth, and that's how come dey say I can conjure with de little 
low animals and steals folkses' tracks so good and make them keep 
wanderin. Maybe so, I don't know. I'se been here a long time, too 
long if you ask me. My mammy come out here with Marse Bob from 



Earthy-Ann 347 

Charleston, South C'lina, and I was born here, right here in dis here 
yard. I was here 'fore Marse Bob died and 'fore his two boys, Mr. Joe 
and Mr. Johnny, died too, and once dey's gone there ain' no comin' 
back. But I can't recollec' Miss Ca'line much; my 'membrance is 
shallow, but dey say she turned foolish in de head after while and dey 
took her off. I don't know nuthin' 'bout that, but I knows enough. 
She was a good woman and had a heap of trouble. I used to wash and 
iron de shirts and look after de house in dem days, en jes' like Marse 
Bob left hit dat's jes' like he foun' hit. Ain' nothin' left now to look 
after. Mr. Charlie done drunk himself to death and ev'rything on de 
place in ruination. Us mos' done come to de end of de row. My 
tiredness done come down on me now, and I'se wore out trying to look 
after him. But you better go 'long home now and don't let him come 
catch you askin' me no questions." 

I apologized, and this time remembered to say that I had been invited 
into the house by an old Negro who was standing near the back door. 

"Must a been old Bokay," she said. "He used to be Marse Bob's 
carriage driver, but Bokay don't belong here no more dan you do. He 
jes' roam about, 'cause he ain't got no home, and he ain' got all what 
b'longs to him in de head neither. He say he comes back here to see 
'bout Marse Bob's horses, but ain' no horses here to look after, ain' 
nothin' if you ask me; ain' a tree left even for to cut a ridin' switch." 

I understood now something of her dialect. She was a Gullah 
Negro; at least her mother was, and it was the influence of Scotch and 
English still surviving in her speech, together with what I believe was 
a slight alcoholic overtone. But why, I wondered, should these simple 
words of everyday speech convey such hopelessness and despair ? 

A straight young mulatto girl came up the path carrying an oil can 
and a small bundle of broomstraw. "Here's the kerosene," she said 
to Earthy-Ann, "and Mr. Charlie say for you to fill up de lamp, and say 
he ain' comin' 'til late." 

Encouraged by this I asked if I might pull up an old chair near by 
and sit down. 

"Hit ain' my idea," the old woman said. Then taking her seat on 
the steps continued, "Course you can stay if you wants to, but if Mr. 
Charlie know hit he's goin' to git mad and fault me." Turning sud- 
denly to the girl, she said, "Don't take dat green broomstraw in de 
house, Rose. De fros' ain' fell on hit yet, and I'se done had enough 
bad luck without dat, but I sho' needs a broom. Us will have to make 



348 Ruby P. Tartt 

it out of doors, I reckon. Mr. Charlie didn't give you no money, did 
he, Rose?" 

The girl untied the corner of a large, besmudged handkerchief and 
displayed a twenty-five-cent piece. This, I learned from their conver- 
sation, was for a barbecue supper at New Hope. Rose talked of other 
Negroes who were going and mentioned that Aunt Phyllis and Enoch 
were coming by for her in the wagon. New Hope, I recalled, was the 
Negro Baptist church that I had passed on the road, and I had noticed 
the big barbecue pit and a number of Negroes busy nailing up long 
rough tables and benches. 

Here at last was the open door. Earthy-Ann would talk of religion; 
any Negro will, the one thing buried so deep in the Negro's being that 
nothing can disturb. She might even sing one of those old emotional 
and syncopated laments so irresistible in its rhythmical appeal, and so 
I asked if she were going with Rose and Aunt Phyllis to New Hope. 
If she had heard the door of destiny slam shut in her face at that mo- 
ment she could not have looked more utterly wretched. She waited a 
few seconds, then slowly raised her head and looking, not at me but 
far beyond said : 

"No'm, I ain't goin' to no church with nobody. I ain' never jined de 
church 'cause I ain' never had no belief and no experience, and you 
can't jine without you got 'ligion. Hit's too late now, I reckon. I use 
to want to jine, but Mr. Charlie say 'ligion was jes' a pack of foolish- 
ness, and dat all dat shoutin' and whoopin' and hollerin' folks do want 
nothin' but foolishness neither." She paused a moment, then added, 
"And I thought he knowed. No'm. I didn't never jine, en hit's too late 
now, I reckon. I believe heven's a good place to go to though, but I can't 
tell you how come, 'cause I don't know nothin' much 'bout hit. I ain't 
never 'fessed no hope in Christ, ain' never sung none of them old songs 
like I hear them sing 'bout. But I feels de need to be baptized. Hit'll 
soon be time for me to ride on de Jerdan tide, and I ain' ready, and what 
is I'm goin' to do? Lawdy, Lawdy. I been thinkin' 'bout dat a heap 
lately, and las' night I sneezed with my mouth full of vittles and dat's a 
sho' sign o' death. And I believes my time is mos' out. I hear some 
folks say Christians can view God-a-mighty and git happy, and all you 
got to do is 'fess Christ, and dey tell me dey can hear little moans and 
things, and can walk across hell on a spider web; but I ain' never seed 
none o' dat. 'Fore Mammy left she told all us chillun to live for Christ 
'cause hit's de onliest way, but I didn't pay her no mind, and dat was a 



Earthy-Ann 349 

long time ago. Marse Bob didn't 'low none of his colored folks to go to 
church or no meetin' in dem days, and didn't 'low them to have no 
books or no schoolin' 'cause dey might rise up and have trouble. Dem 
was sad times, if you ask me. But Marse Bob thought 'ligion was a lot 
of trash jes' like Mr. Charlie do now, and dey got book larnin', Mr. 
Charlie and dem is, and I ain't. I don't know what de Bible say 'bout 
hit 'cause I warn't never larnt nothin', and I can't read no printin'. I 
use to try to pray sometime when I'd get right lonesome. I use to shut 
de do' and put my head down in de washpot so hit could catch de soun', 
den pray easy so Mr. Charlie wouldn't hear me. I reckon if I had a 
prayed out loud I might of got 'ligion, but hit's too late now. Look 
like I jes' don't believe somehow." 

And with a gesture of utter defeat she dropped her hands between 
her knees and said no more. She was the only Negro I had ever seen 
without the joy of living or who could not look with longing upon the 
peace of life after death. As I looked on the tired and crumpled figure, 
I realized that in all this section of ignorance, superstition, and hook- 
worm, I had never seen a gloom like that of this picture of simple 
people who have suffered so needlessly for someone else's purposes. 

They are born imitators, the Negroes, and the selection of their 
models is often a matter of accident. Here the books of Marse Bob 
and Mr. Charlie had torn down an ancient faith in a half-baked, too 
easily malleable mind, without putting anything constructive in its 
place. 

Earthy-Ann's mother had been bought a slave, taken up by her roots 
from her native land and transplanted in foreign soil. And now 
Earthy-Ann, grown old, identified as she is with the two races whose 
blood she shares in that peculiar relation which one sees so often in 
the South, is cut off from the life of one, living in the midst of another 
which uses her (there is no doubt of that) but does not take her in. 
First adopting anything told her, now doubting her own doubts, life 
has become a terrible muddle. 

This then was the story of the old house, as it stood there an accusing 
monument to past mistakes and the utter futility of possession. The 
story of desolation that had been wrought in the life of a simple Negro 
woman, whose need of faith had been implanted in the fibers of her 
being through countless generations. 

I climbed into the old buggy, feeling that "nothing is ever finished 
or left behind forever," and as I turned to avoid a sawed-off stump, I 



350 C. A. MlLLSPAUGH 

waved a friendly hand. But Earthy-Ann sat motionless, the surface 
calm unbroken, accepting discouragement and defeat with that heart- 
breaking patience that is so characteristic of her race. 



WYOMING HAS WILD HORSES 

C. A. Millspaugh 

In Wyoming there are wild horses. 

Down to the streams in the Springtime, 

Loud hooves in the dust, in the sunshine, 

Manes up at the neck, tails long, by the wind fanned, 

Wild horses are thunder over the plains. 

Knee-deep they stand in the rivers, 

Heads down they nuzzle the waters; 

At the least twig-crack or a leaf-fall 

Heads lift, eyes stare, and their lips blow. 

In the cities of the plains there are few horses; 

But the people where they starve will remember — 

The girls in their walk, in the flirt of the head, 

The woman in the dark where the babe cries. 

Hot dirt and cooked grass has Wyoming, 

And bones ride the rocks on the ranges 

Where the fool and the famous have famished. 

Yet the wild horses run in the Spring. 

Men know that have seen no wild horses 
How manes flicked with sunlight blow over brooks, 
And they in their souls say this for their peace: 
Wild horses still run in Wyoming! 

Deep where the world was first going 
In Wyoming there were these wild horses, 
And stiff under grass our hope would be graved 
If far in Wyoming there were no wild horses 
To run in the Spring, to the streams. 




Homestead Women 



Pearl Price Robertson 



FACING westward from Big Sandy, Alec and I and the children 
drove twenty miles to the quarter section which was to be our 
home on the wide wind-swept Montana prairie; and just before 
sundown we stopped on the spot where our shack was to be. West- 
ward lay the Goosebill, long and low; northward the Sweetgrass hills 
on the Canadian border, crowned with snow; behind us the Bearpaws 
made a jagged line against the sky; far to the south in the blue dis- 
tance loomed the Highwoods. The sun shone on the grass sparkling 
with raindrops; the wild sweetpeas nodded their yellow heads in 
friendly greeting. As I looked across the rolling expanse of prairie, 
fired with the beauty of a Montana sunset, I sent a little prayer of 
thanksgiving up from my heart for this, our very first home! Only 
a rectangle of prairie sod, raw and untouched by the hand of man, 
but to us it was a kingdom. 

I loved the prairie, even while I feared it. God's country, the old- 
timers called it. There is something about it which gets a man — or 
a woman. I feared its relentlessness, its silence, and its sameness, even 
as I loved the tawny spread of its sun-drenched ridges, its shimmering 
waves of desert air, burning stars in a midnight sky. Still in my 
dreams I can feel the force of that wind, and hear its mournful wail 
around my shack in the lonely hours of the night! How many times 
I watched the stars at night, fires of heaven shining through, as I 
waited listening for the rumble of Alec's wagon. 

The rollicking wind promptly bowled our tent over, that first night 
at our new home; so again we slept in our wagon. The only water 
we had for any purpose was contained in a gallon jug, and we did not 
know how soon nor where we could get more. Consequently, we 
drank sparingly and in little sips, and bathed our hands and faces in 

351 



352 Pearl P. Robertson 

the dewy grass of the morning. We never could keep the tent up — 
but what matter ? — our neighbor lent us the use of a little shack across 
the way until our own shack was built. There we camped the first 
few weeks. We had no stove or firewood that first day. No, I had 
not learned to burn cowchips yet; that was an innovation which came 
later. Alec went back to town to bring out our first load of lumber, 
and the children and I put on our wraps and, to keep out the chill, 
huddled beneath our blankets in the shack. It took most of the day 
and well into the night to make the trip into town and return with 
a load; so in the evening I hung up a lighted lantern to guide Alec 
on his return to the shack. At first we set the kitchen range up out- 
of-doors, but rain and disagreeable weather made this impractical; 
then we moved it within, and since there was no hole in the roof, 
stuck the pipe out through the little hole in the side which served for 
a window. The stove and the folding-bed filled almost the entire 
space. There was no room for table or chairs; so mostly when meal- 
time came we stood and ate from the plates which we held in our 
hands. The walls were of unmatched lumber, which let in the wind 
and rain, but at least over us there was a roof. We were real West- 
erners now, and could not shrink from anything which was to be our 
portion. 

The greatest hardship of all was the scarcity of water. The first 
settlers had dug wells, which eighty to ninety feet down were still 
dry as dust. At first we were filled with dismay to find no water 
anywhere; sometimes we had none even to drink until Alec bought a 
barrel which he filled with water each day when in town and brought 
home on top of his load of lumber. We had to stint ourselves ex- 
tremely for water for bathing, and as for our clothing I washed it a 
few pieces at a time in the washbasin, because there was no water to 
fill the tub! We located some water-holes and coulees where occa- 
sionally we could get water for our horses, but often we had to go 
many miles for it. My throat constricted with pain when I thought of 
the well we had planned with which I meant to irrigate my lovely 
dream-garden. It now seemed very remote indeed! Later a shallow 
well was dug in the coulee a mile away, and it yielded us a small 
amount of water each day. 

Once that spring when we went to the coulee for water the cattle- 
men were holding their last big roundup on that prairie, since the 
homesteaders had taken their range; they had established camp by 



Homestead Woman 353 

the water-hole and had just butchered a young steer. Here was a bit 
of the old West about which I had read — the branding iron on the 
smoldering fire, the rope corral, the chuck-wagon, the riders with wide 
sombreros, hairy "chaps" and jingling spurs! While we were filling 
our water-barrel one of the cowboys came over, and with a grand sweep 
of his broad hat, smilingly proffered us a piece of the freshly butchered 
beef. Could he have known how much we appreciated his gift, or 
by any chance have guessed how lean was the larder in the little shack 
at home? 

We worked happily at our building during every minute of our 
spare time; I held the boards while Alec sawed and nailed them, and 
in a few weeks, the new shack, fourteen feet by twenty feet, with two 
windows and a door, was ready to move into. Joyfully I worked with 
rugs, curtains, and other things dear to a woman's heart, making it 
pretty and livable. 

Alec plowed a small plot for a garden and I attempted the disheart- 
ening task of planting it — disheartening because amid the hard dry 
chunks of sod I could find no loose soil for covering the seeds. Pa- 
tiently I took up the sods one by one, and with my hands pounded 
and shook soil from the matted grass roots and carefully patted it over 
my seeds. But disillusionment sat heavy upon me; as I worked, the 
tears fell, and truly I "watered my furrows with tears." No more rains 
came, the grass shriveled and dried up, and shimmering heat waves 
danced across the landscape. The only seed in my garden which 
found moisture enough to grow were the beans, and then as soon as 
the seed leaves appeared above the ground the chickens promptly 
snapped them off. My first garden on the homestead became only a 
sad memory. 

How much I feared the rattlesnake, not on my own account alone, 
but for the sake of my little children! I warned them repeatedly as 
they played about the dooryard to look out for "ugly creeping things" 
and to beware of buzzing noises. But we never saw any — not one! 
One day as Alec and I walked about our so-called garden we noticed 
a great black beetle shambling along among the clods and pointed it 
out to our little son. Imagine how I felt when the little fellow shrank 
back, his face pale and eyes round with fear as he gasped out, "A 
rattlesnake!" 

Life on the homestead was becoming a serious problem to us now; 
our money was all gone and food supplies almost exhausted. There 



354 Pearl P. Robertson 

was still a little flour, and a bit of lard. There was no yeast or other 
leavening; for bread I mixed the flour with water and a little lard, and 
baked it in small cakes. There was rice, but no sugar; so I put in a 
few raisins for sweetening. There was absolutely nothing else, so far 
as I can now recall. Alec was faced with the necessity of leaving his 
family on the homestead while he went in search of work. I tried to 
be very brave, but my heart sank at the thought of facing life in that 
lonely place without Alec. Many of our neighbors, too, went away 
looking for work, so that I was left very much alone except when 
some distant settler passed by, sometimes bringing my mail and sup- 
plies. At times for days I saw no one; and then the terrifying loneli- 
ness and silence of the great prairie appalled me, and I sobbed aloud 
to shut out the eerie sound of the coyote's wail, or the dreary soughing 
of the wind beneath the eaves of my shack. I went to the coulee a 
mile away each day for water, and occasionally the children and I 
made the trip afoot to the store and post office; but as these trips 
always left us all very much exhausted, we did not attempt them 
often. Alec wrote every week, sometimes oftener, and his letters were 
always a delight — long, and filled with details of his work and asso- 
ciations. After one of his letters came I could forget my loneliness 
and sing at my work for hours. 

I busied my mind and my hands with homely little tasks, making 
over garments for the children's wear and preparing a layette for the 
new baby soon to come. I sighed over the layette, for mostly it was 
composed of clothes which my other babies had worn, and I found 
myself longing intensely for at least one new little garment for the 
precious darling. I had a large-sized sugar sack which had been care- 
lessly tossed into Alec's wagon one day at the store; this I carefully 
snipped open, washed, bleached in the sun, and pressed. I drew 
threads painstakingly and made a drawn-work yoke of exquisite pat- 
tern, hemstitched ruffles for the neck and sleeves, and with a deep 
hem at the bottom it became a dainty little dress, which, with a sense 
of deepest satisfaction, I laid away in readiness for my baby's coming. 

Summer waned, and the frosty mornings and the calm sunshiny 
days of autumn came on. Alec was to come for us soon, as he was 
making plans to take us to the Judith Basin where he worked,, so that 
I might have the care of a doctor and a nurse in my hour of need. I 
wrote to Alec setting the date for his coming in early October, since 
I expected my baby in November, giving myself, or so I thought, 



Homestead Woman 355 

ample time to make the trip and get rested afterward. Twenty-four 
hours after mailing that letter I was startled by premonitory pains of 
an alarming nature, and as they constantly recurred at decreasing in- 
tervals I became more and more uneasy. . . . Could I have been mis- 
taken in the time? . . . Could this be approaching childbirth? . . . 
Maybe if I rested quietly for awhile . . . maybe, oh! maybe ... no, 
there was no longer any doubt, my baby would arrive before the letter 
could reach Alec, before competent help could ever reach me! . . . 
Heaven help me now; I must think what to do! 

Calmly I went about preparations, trying hard to keep a firm grip 
upon myself, trying hard not to become panicky. I must be brave; I 
must keep my head. Babies had been born before like this . . . and 
everything was all right — oh, if I were only sure what to do! If I 
only had someone — anyone, to look to for help! I watched for a 
little boy who occasionally rode past my shack in search of his cows 
which roamed the prairie, and luckily tonight he came within calling 
distance. "Johnnie, take this note to your mother!" "What is it, a 
party?" the boy asked eagerly, as he took the note. "I want your 
mother, I need her help! Oh, please hurry!" I gasped. The grey 
pony bounded forward and disappeared into the gathering dusk. As 
darkness came on, I put the children to bed and waited tensely for 
the help which must not fail me! Prayerfully I waited — and walked 
the floor listening, listening — almost in despair as my need grew 
greater. Such a wave of relief surged over me as I heard scurrying 
footsteps in the darkness! My sister-in-law arrived, frightened and 
tearful, and Mrs. Warren, capable, motherly, master of the situation 
at once. An hour later my wee new daughter was born! 

Call it premonition or otherwise, Alec decided to surprise me by 
coming home much sooner than I was expecting him, and at the same 
hour that I was waiting for help to come in my desperate need, he 
was speeding toward home as fast as a train could take him. The train 
pulled into Big Sandy a few minutes after midnight and Alec stepped 
out into the darkness without a moment's pause and set out to walk 
the twenty miles to the shack on the great brown prairie, which held 
his loved ones. He arrived home soon after daybreak, to find me in 
bed, flushed with happiness, a newborn daughter by my side. 

Two more boys were born to us, and then in rapid succession two 
more daughters. The family prospered, so that at last we could spend 



356 Pearl P. Robertson 

all our time on the homestead. We owned a car and the fourteen- 
by-twenty shack became a five-room cottage, but never was it the 
home of our youthful dreams. My lovely garden, so soul-satisfying 
and enchanting, was never aught but a beautiful dream. The trees 
we planted pined away and died for lack of water, while my flowers 
bent their frail heads and the brazen sun turned them into nothing- 
ness. The war had come, bringing with it high prices for the farmer's 
grain, and copious rainfall had blest the settlers' efforts with bounteous 
harvests. The four elevators of the prairie town were kept filled to 
overflowing with golden grain, and every day the golden flood poured 
in, hundreds of wagons waiting for freight cars, so that the farmers 
might take turns unloading their precious cargoes. With wheat at 
$1.87 a bushel and granaries and bins filled to bursting, the settlers 
bought more land and high-priced machinery to grow more and big- 
ger crops "to help win the war." But the bad years came when we 
staked our all on the caprice of the weather and a wheat crop which 
might never be harvested. As drouth, weeds, cutworms, and hail- 
storms took their toll from the grain fields, the eager illuminating 
light of hope died out of the settlers' faces and gave place to a look 
of morbid apathy and despair. We looked across the broad acres of 
stunted, shriveled crops, dotted with Russian thistles, and the mort- 
gages mounted higher and the bankers clamored for their interest. 

Then came a year when no rains fell and no crops grew, and the 
bewildered settlers faced a winter with no money, no food, no cloth- 
ing for their families, no feed of any kind for their livestock, no work. 
Dumb with despair, the men set about finding some means of provid- 
ing for their families; most of them went away to work while the 
women and little children stayed on in the homes, carrying on as best 
they might. Alec found a job on a ranch near Billings. When he 
went away I was left on the homestead once more without him, but 
this time with nine children instead of three, the youngest a baby three 
weeks old. 

Alec sent every dollar of his wages home as fast as it was earned, 
yet with me the winter was one long struggle with circumstances to 
keep my family warmed and fed and to save our horses from starva- 
tion. Upon the horses depended our ability to put in one more crop. 
With the help of my twelve-year-old boy I braved the storms, waded 
snowdrifts to keep the horses fed, and stood upon an icy platform in 
below-zero weather drawing water while the horses crowded and 



Homestead Woman 357 

pushed about the watering trough. Topsy, the black mare, had a 
young colt running with her and we decided it was best to wean the 
colt; so we shut him in the barn, leaving the mare outside. But the 
faithful mother refused to desert her offspring and took up her post 
just outside the barn door, calling to him in anxious whinnies or soft 
nickers of love. All night long she kept the vigil; refusing to seek 
shelter for herself, she stood where the keen blasts of an icy wind 
struck with fullest force. When morning came Willie and I found 
her crumpled form in the snow by the barn door, frozen dead ! Mother 
and son, we wept together over the loss of a faithful friend, while the 
wind ruffled the icy mane and sent little eddies of drifting snow across 
the frozen body. Two other horses we lost that winter, and each time 
I felt the loss keenly, as that of a valued friend ; but when spring came 
we still had nine left of our twelve — gaunt, shaggy creatures, covered 
with vermin. 

The feed for my pigs gave out. When a week had gone by I thought 
desperately of trying to butcher the sorry little creatures. I wept over 
their plight, but my woman's nature quailed at the thought of under- 
taking the butchering alone with no help but Willie's. At last my 
brother-in-law and two neighbor lads came to help, but the day we 
set for the butchering was bitter cold with freezing blasts of snow- 
laden wind sweeping out of the north. Scalding and scraping the 
pigs was a painful task as the water cooled and changed to ice rapidly ; 
but at last the eight of them were cleaned and scraped after a fashion 
and left hanging in the shed while we ate our dinner. We ate hur- 
riedly, so as to return to our task before freezing interfered with cut- 
ting the meat into pieces for curing. But when one of the lads hurried 
out ahead to examine the pigs he called back, "They're frozer'n hell 
right now!" 

Stiffly swinging from the rafters, the pigs hung like craven images 
carved of stone; no knife could penetrate the frozen forms. To save 
fuel we moved the kitchen range into the large living room — here, 
too, had been placed our beds — and here we carried the frozen pigs 
and placed them in formidable array across the dining table; they 
stood at various rakish angles, each firmly upon his feet, ears outspread 
and tails extending stiffly straight out behind, to be left until they 
thawed out. I sat up late that night keeping a brisk fire burning and 
writing a letter to Alec. It was so cold the timbers of the house popped, 
and the frost crept higher and ever higher up the door. The hands 



358 Pearl P. Robertson 

of the clock pointed almost to midnight. Suddenly I was startled 
by footsteps in the frozen snow and my name called in a familiar 
voice. "Open the door quick! We've a girl out here who's nearly 
frozen!" Hastily I opened the door and recognized Dan, a friend of 
the family, and another man supporting between them a slender young 
girl. We carried her inside, where I removed her thin shoes and 
rubbed her aching hands and feet. When she was warmed and resting 
comfortably Dan turned about, glanced at my sleeping children in the 
cots, and then at the frozen pigs on the table. "My God!" he said. 

The girl — a homesick child — had been attending school in Big 
Sandy, and longing to spend the Thanksgiving vacation with home 
folks, had attempted a twenty-five-mile ride atop a load of coal, when 
the thermometer stood at thirty degrees below zero. I took her into 
bed with me for the rest of the night and the men went to a neighbor's. 

Thanksgiving morning dawned clear and cold; the morning sun 
shone across a white and frozen world lying crisp and still in the 
crinkling, frosty air. The Russian thistles had caught the drifts and 
each was a hummock of glittering snow — no sign of life in the white 
expanse except the smoke which curled lazily upward from the house- 
tops dotting the prairie. My little guest of the night before continued 
her journey that day and reached home in time to partake of Thanks- 
giving dinner with home folks. 

One of my greatest problems was bringing supplies from town, 
especially hay and fuel. Never having money enough at a time to 
buy any great quantity, I lived in abject terror of exhausting my supply 
before I could get more. Alec wrote: "If your fuel gives out, burn 
the fence posts, tear boards from the barn and burn them, burn any- 
thing about the place — don't take any chances of freezing!" Some- 
times when food supplies ran low I was driven to parcelling out our 
meals in bits, and at times the pinched, ill-nourished look on the faces 
of my children made me sick with apprehension. Once in the coldest 
weather it was imperative that we get supplies from town. I hesi- 
tated to send my boy, small and frail as he was, but there seemed no 
other way. Pridefully, manfully, he set out with the team and sled, 
in company with his uncle, to bring hay, coal, potatoes, flour and 
sugar; there was little else we could afford to buy. The roads were 
piled with frozen drifts, so that bringing out a loaded sled was a slow 
and tedious matter, and the boy, inadequately clothed and with ragged 
overshoes many sizes too large, walked stumblingly through the snow- 



Homestead Woman 359 

drifts all the long way from town behind the slow-moving sled. It 
was hours after dark before I heard the jingling of the harness and 
the creaking runners of the returning sleds. The boy reached home 
shaking with cold and reeling with exhaustion. As I worked over 
the worn-out child, rubbing with snow his numbed hands and frost- 
bitten feet, my mother's heart swelled with fierce, hot rebellion over 
the fate which imposed such hardship upon so young a child; I made 
a swift, determined resolve not to let my children be crushed by the 
sordidness of circumstances, to secure for them their just measure of 
the beauty and brightness of life, and to make up to them by every 
means at my command for the privations they now endured. 

December brought a chinook and the snow disappeared with the 
warm southwest wind like ice beneath a July sun. Water filled the 
puddles, overflowed the ponds, and rushed in torrents down the coulees. 
No longer need I worry about hauling water, for the rest of that season 
at least! 

Christmas day the neighbors gathered at my home for a community 
Christmas dinner. None had much, but all brought something, and 
assembled, it seemed an abundance. Jollity, friendship, and good-will 
radiated from the fun-loving crowd, the day being shadowed for me 
only by the lack of Alec's presence. It was but one of many good 
times the community shared together. 

Alec returned with the coming of spring and together we planned 
the planting of one more crop. During the long winter months an- 
other plan had been slowly forming in my mind, a plan to which I 
gained Alec's reluctant consent. Leaving my nine-months-old baby 
in the care of a neighbor, I washed and pressed my one dress, mended 
the only shoes I possessed, and in a shabby black coat and khaiki hat 
I went to town to write the examinations for a Montana teacher's cer- 
tificate. Timidly at first, then glowingly as I warmed to my subjects, 
I wrote and wrote; and then feverishly awaited the returns from 
Helena. When I was once more the happy possessor of a teacher's 
certificate I went to my local board of trustees and asked for a posi- 
tion, and they were too surprised to say "no." Three years I taught 
my own and my neighbors' children, and some of the happiest hours 
of my life were spent in that tiny prairie schoolhouse where zealously 
I tried, out of my own knowledge and experience, to bring beauty 
and joy into the lives of the thirty-three children whose only experi- 
ences had been those of the drab life on the bleak prairie. All the 



360 Pearl P. Robertson 

love I put into my work there has been returned to me a thousandfold. 
The money I earned helped to feed and clothe my family and started 
my boy to high school. 

Courageously but hopelessly the settlers struggled on, trying vainly 
with borrowed money to battle the elements, to tame the desert, and 
to carve home and fortune out of the raw land. Then came the grass- 
hoppers, newly hatched, swarming out of the unplowed fields and 
covering the growing crops with a gray, slimy, creeping cloud which 
hour by hour steadily advanced, wiping out the greenness of the land, 
leaving only dry, bare clods in the fields. Despair over the ravaged 
crops filled the farmers' hearts. 

On the billowing, russet prairie stands an empty farmhouse, its 
windows gone and doors sagging; beneath its eaves the wind soughs 
mournfully; the desert sand drifts around its doorsteps; and the Rus- 
sian thistle tumbles past. Desolate, silent it stands — grim witness to 
the frustration of a man's hopes and a woman's dreams. . . . We have 
no regrets; life is fuller and sweeter through lessons learned in priva- 
tion, and around our homestead days some of life's fondest memories 
still cling. We are of Montana, now and always; boosters still. And 
in a fair valley of western Montana where the melting snows of the 
Mission Range trickle out in clear streams across the thirsty land, our 
dreams of the long ago are slowly taking on life. The grass grows 
green about my doorstep, the vines clamber about my porch, the 
flowers bloom, the birds sing, and Alec's much-loved Brown Swiss 
cattle graze in lush fields. The little children who shared the priva- 
tions of homestead life — three sons and seven daughters — are growing 
into a splendid family, a pride and a blessing every one. In the past 
six years five of them have graduated from the local high school, one 
is a member of the senior class, and two are freshmen ; one is a business- 
college graduate and two have graduated from a state normal school. 
Tonight, as I write, the mellow glow of our electric lights shines over 
our happy home circle, the rooms vibrant from the tinkle of a piano, 
the melodious wail of a violin, and the lilt of happy youthful voices. 
1 feel that creating a home and rearing a family in Montana has been 
a grand success, and my cup seems filled to overflowing with the sweet- 
ness and joy of living. 




The Cloud Puncher 



William Cunningham 



YOU always hear a lot of stories about these cyclones blowin' 
straws into houses, about the feller hangin' out a sack of meal 
and the twister blowin' the sack away and leavin' the meal hangin' 
there, but I seen a thing happen when I was a boy workin' on a ranch 
out in Kansas, and they ain't no use talkin', that was a thing I ain't 
never heard anything to beat it. 

They was a pony buster, name of Tiny Fallon, which was because 
he was so small we called him Tiny, being not five feet high. And 
that's why we called him Tiny. Well, Tiny was not to say very smart. 
That is, I guess he was bright enough. About like the rest of us when 
you come right down to it. But what I mean he didn't have sense 
enough to be afraid of anything. 

They wasn't anything Tiny couldn't ride. He could ride the worst 
horse you ever seen. I seen horses pitch all the fleas off, tryin' to git 
rid of Tiny, and pitch the hair off their back, and not git out from 
under him. I never seen Tiny lose his head or pull leather. 

Sometimes the fellers would rope up a wild steer and Tiny would 
git on without a string and ride that steer. And he never would ride 
'em backwards, like fellers do, holdin' to their tail. You know how a 
steer is. Seems like his hind laigs is longer than his front laigs and 
his back bone slopes so that soon as he starts stickin' his front feet in 
the ground you jist naturally slide down on his horns. Well, Tiny 
never slid down like that. You wouldn't believe it, the way he could 
ride. He always waved his hat and yelled. You never seen a feller 
ride like that; I mean ride as good as Tiny. 

One trouble with Tiny, he would git drunk in town and would ride 
home like a bat outa hell and every once in a while he'd kill a good 
saddle horse that way. I remember once he had the best mare in that 

361 



362 William Cunningham 

part of the country and he rode her ten or fifteen miles on the dead 
lope, although he knowed she was with colt, and he killed her. Some- 
times he didn't have a lick of sense. 

Well, one spring they was mighty uncertain weather and bad twisters 
that we heard of, and sometimes we seen 'em off a little ways like 
funnels travelin' along in the sky and settlin' down once in a while 
to pull up dirt or cattle or anything that happened to be there. Them 
things is bad, you know. They ain't nothin' they can't do. 

One day, of a Sunday afternoon, a bunch of us was loafin' around 
waitin' for the boys from another outfit that was gonna play baseball 
with us. The sky got mean-lookin' and we was talkin' about goin' to 
a dugout, when all at once they was a twister comin' right at us. Well, 
we run for the dugout, all but Tiny. It seemed like he didn't have 
sense enough to be afraid of the thing. That was one trouble with 
Tiny. He didn't have a lot of sense, and he didn't know when he 
ought to git scared. 

We was runnin' and lookin' back, and Tiny was walkin' along not 
in any hurry, and that blamed twister got him. Yanked him right up, 
all sprawled out. And there he went. The last we seen him he was 
a hundred feet in the air, right side up, and he was wavin' his hat, 
jist from habit. He didn't know anything else to do. 

We was sorry to see Tiny took of? like that. He was a good feller 
and everybody liked him although he didn't have any too much sense. 
And some of the boys said it was a nice sight, him wavin' his hat, and 
if Tiny had to go, well, he might as well go like that. 

And some of the boys said the twister would drop him astraddle of 
a barbed-wire fence and split him lengthways, and some thought it 
would slide him through one along the ground and slice him the other 
way like a baloney. The next day when we rode fence we looked for 
pieces of Tiny either split or sliced, because nobody was very sure of his 
own opinion and you never can tell what a cyclone will do. 

Well, it was about a week, and we all got over lookin' for Tiny. We 
got word to the boys in the other outfits and they looked for him but 
didn't find him. 

Then they was a bad night, and we all got scared on account of what 
had happened to Tiny, and we left the bunkhouse and went into the 
old dugout which was safer. When things quietened a little bit we 
come out, not really expectin' to find any bunkhouse, but there it was, 
and when we went in to bed we found Tiny in his old bunk, asleep. 



The Cloud Puncher 363 

Wc woke him up and asked him what in thunder had happened to 
him, but he was too sleepy. He said he was dog-tired, and he'd tell 
us next day. And that was all we could get out of him. He finally 
got mad because we wouldn't leave him sleep; so we shut up and 
waited to the next day. 

Well, the next day we asked him again and he said: "Well, boys, it 
happened mighty funny, and I wished I'd had my saddle along." 

And we asked him was he crazy, and he said he wasn't, and he said: 
"You see, boys, I broke that blamed twister to ride, and I come back 
to git my saddle." 

Well, acourse that made us mad, for him to start coddin' us, that 
was old friends of his and been in that country a long time. And we 
started walkin' off to the corral, and he said: "Wait a minute, boys," 
and he sounded real sincere. He said: "I don't blame you boys for 
takin' it like that, but it's the god's truth. I rode it darned near to the 
mountains before I could git it under control, and then it wasn't no 
easy thing to head it back this way. I kept wishin' I had my saddle. 
I rode it in last night. You boys seen the storm yourself." 

Well, he sounded so blamed sincere that we didn't feel like knockin' 
his head off. And we made signs to each other and decided he was 
crazy and we'd have to humor the poor feller for a while till he got 
back in his right mind. 

He went on talkin'. He said: "Now the hardest thing to do was 
to train it not to put its foot down where it would do any hurt. It 
don't put a foot down very often, but when it does they's likely to be 
damage, and you've got to watch careful, like you do for gopher holes 
when you're ridin' a horse." 

"Well, now, where is this twister of yours?" somebody asked him 
to make him feel good, and he said: "Well, they ain't no place to put 
one up; so I had to turn it out to graze last night, and I hope it ain't 
done no particular damage around here." 

Now that was pretty bad, even if he was crazy, and we was sore 
and he seen we was, and he said: "Well, boys, I really don't blame you 
none. It don't sound very reasonable. I guess I'll be goin' now, and 
I like you boys a lot and I hope they ain't no hard feelin's." 

He went in the bunkhouse and got his saddle and put it down on 
the ground, and we felt sorry, and we said: "You ain't goin' afoot, are 
you, Tiny ?" 



364 William Cunningham 

And he said: "No, I ain't goin' afoot." And he whistled real loud. 

Well, it was a clear mornin' up to then, but they was the blackest 
cloud you ever seen come whirlin' up from the west, and the dirt was 
foggin' over a patch of plowed ground. And we seen the twister 
comin', and it scared us like the devil, and we run to the dugout. 

Well, Tiny stood there, with his saddle between his feet, and that 
twister swooped down. We was watchin' out of the dugout, scared 
to death. And it swooped down neat and it didn't touch a thing, and 
it picked Tiny up with the saddle under him. The way he squirted 
into the air would make your hair stand on end. It was the blamedest 
sight I ever seen. With things whirlin' all around him, he was ridin' 
straight, leanin' back in the saddle, and he took off his hat and waved 
it to us. In a couple of seconds he was just a speck, and then he was 
gone. The storm swung around in a big circle and headed west, and 
the funnel went high for a while and then settled in the brush pasture, 
scarin' a herd of yearlin's but not harmin' 'em a bit. 

Well, that's the last we ever seen of Tiny. We heard later that he 
was doin' well and makin' good money further out west, herdin' clouds. 

Yeah, herdin' clouds. You see, them ranchers in the dry country 
would git pretty hard up for rain and they was willin' to pay good 
money for a two- or three-inch gully-washer. So Tiny would ride over 
the mountains, so we heard, and pick up a herd of good rain clouds 
and push them to a ranch. He'd bunch 'em and bed 'em down till 
they rained whatever the rancher was payin' for. 

He charged by the inch, but the price on each inch was steeper, be- 
cause rain clouds is hard to handle. They're like milk cows; you can't 
run 'em much or they'll lose their rain. And a good bunch ain't easy 
to find. Now Tiny would chase you up a shower to settle the dust for 
little or nothin'. An inch rain was reasonable but two inches was 
more than twice as much as one inch, and so on. That's the way he 
charged, so we heard. For a four-inch rain a rancher had to pay good 
and heavy, and I don't blame Tiny a bit, because of what he must of 
went through breakin' that twister. 

It was too bad the way Tiny finally ended up. He was ridin' around 
at night one night, which was bad because he couldn't see where his 
twister was steppin', and the thing settled down on a saloon and twisted 
up a whole stock of liquor, includin' a bottle opener. Well, Tiny he 
couldn't resist, and he got drunk as a lord, and you know what he 
done ? 



The Cloud Puncher 365 

He rode that twister all the way up and down the Rockies. You 
know, mountains is bad for twisters. They stay around the prairies 
mostly, because they don't like rough goin' no more than a horse does. 
And Tiny didn't pay no mind to the condition his twister was in, and 
he rode it from Canada to Mexico, hell-bent for election. Well, he 
broke its wind and a wind-broke twister ain't worth nothin'. 

And besides, he musta knowed the condition it was in. All at once 
it started havin' a litter of whirlwinds. That's how careless Tiny was. 
And it dropped dead on him. Now it ain't so bad to have a horse drop 
dead. Maybe you git a nasty spill. But this twister died when Tiny 
was about five hundred feet in the air, and there wasn't nothin' left 
but a bunch of little orphan whirlwinds caperin' around and not one 
of 'em broke to ride. Anyway a young whirlwind can't hardly blow 
your hat off, let alone support a man. 

Well, they never was much of Tiny, and after he hit the ground he 
was so scattered that they couldn't hardly scrape up enough of him to 
make a good funeral. Which comes from not havin' common horse 
sense. It was too bad, because Tiny was a fine feller, when you got 
right down to it. 




Oilfield Idyl 

Daniel M. Garrison 

LAWYER JIM 

HOWDY, Hutch, what's that you got in that can?" 
"Worms." 

"Going fishing?" 

"Yeh, Lawyer Jim is giving another one of them fishing parties." 

"Lawyer Jim?" 

"Yeh, don't you know Jim McCann?" 

"The county attorney?" 

"Yeh, he's the best lawyer in the state; that is, when he's sober, and 
when he's drunk he's the best lawyer in the whole goddam world." 

"How come he asked you to go fishing?" 

"I always go fishing with him. I'm on the jury." 

"What you mean ? There ain't no trials a-going on." 

"We hold our trials out on the river bank. Lawyer Jim is going to 
defend Borger Reds tonight. He's up for killing his wife." 

"BorgerReds?" 

"Yeh; but Lawyer Jim will bring him clear. He always does." 

"You mean Borger Reds, that good-for-nothing bum that racks balls 
at Jake Everett's pool hall?" 

"Yeh." 

"Why, he ain't even married." 

"That don't make no difference." 

"How come it don't make no difference ? You've got to have a wife 
before you can kill her off, don't you?" 

"Not in them trials on the river bank." 

"What the goddam hell is this — just a bunch of carryings-on?" 

"Sure, what the hell did you think it was — real court?" 

366 



Oilfield Idyl 367 

"Yeh, I thought you meant real court, seeing Jim McCann was there." 

"Why, Lawyer Jim is just one of the boys. We have them court 
trials all the time." 

"Sure enough?" 

"Yeh; Lawyer Jim he drops in at the pool hall 'bout once a month 
and gives us boys the high sign. Then I gets the worms; Borger Reds 
gets the whisky; Duke gets the victuals for the mulligan; Bud Atter- 
bury gets the trout line; and Billie Keever gets the pot for the mulligan. 
Of course Lawyer Jim pays for all this stuff, 'cause we ain't got nothing. 
Then all us tramps meets him out by Ignorant Hill and loads up in 
his car, a damn big car, and takes out for the North Canadian River. 
If we don't have a time for ourselves! There ain't nobody like Lawyer 
Jim — the smartest, orneriest, big-heartedest, drunkenest one man I 
ever knowed or ever heard tell of." 

"Tell me some more 'bout Lawyer Jim." 

"Lawyer Jim and me is buddies. When he ain't a working we is 
always together. Lawyer Jim use to be on the bum. Yes, sir, he didn't 
do a lick of work till he was nineteen year old; just mooched and slept 
in wheat stacks. Then he gets rained out so he goes to school and 
studies law. Talk 'bout smart, that boy is just as smart as a whip. 
There ain't a better lawyer in the state. 

"I'll never forget the time a young nigger buck comes up to Lawyer 
Jim's office. I was there just a-beefing with him. Wahl, this young 
nigger buck comes up there and tells Lawyer Jim his stepdaddy was 
mistreating him— beats him every day just for nothing. Lawyer Jim 
rears up and starts storming round the room like a wild man. 'Burr- 
head,' he says (he knows all them niggers; use to go out and live with 
them for weeks; that is, till the whisky and beer give out; then he'd 
come home)— 'Burrhead,' he says, 'you go down to Tom Gassaway's 
hardware store and buy yourself the biggest gun they's got and go out 
and shoot that crazy nigger. Now you go and do what I tell you and 
make a good job of it. I'll bring you clear; don't you worry 'bout that.' 
Wahl, by God, in two hours the 'laws' had that nigger buck in jail. 
Yes, sir, he shot his stepdaddy's fool head off just like Lawyer Jim told 
him to do. And in two weeks that nigger buck was a-walking the 
streets just like me and you. Yes, sir, he cleared him, just like he said 
he was a-going to." 

"How in the hell did he clear him ? Didn't they know for certain 
that he shot the nigger?" 



368 Daniel M. Garrison 

"Sure they knowed it, but you think them 'laws' and lawyers pay 
any mind to the true evidence? Why, them rascals fix the evidence 
to suit themselves. Sure, that's the way they work them trials; Lawyer 
Jim told me so hisself. 

"Now there is Hiram Smock, a Cammelite preacher. He stole a 
mule from Widow Hubbard and everybody knowed he stole the mule, 
'cause they seen him a-riding it to them revivals they was a-holding 
last summer over there at Sand Creek Grove. Wahl, Lawyer Jim 
defends him in court, 'cause as Lawyer Jim said they both run the 
same kind of graft on the people. Course the preacher's graft getting 
money for saving souls is more risky than Lawyer Jim's graft, 'cause 
he has to reckon with the Old Man; that is, if there is an Old Man, 
and just 'cause there ain't no signs there is, there still might be and 
then it would go tough on the old preacher, plenty tough. Lawyer 
Jim he's just got to reckon with the people and that ain't much of a 
job for a smart man like Lawyer Jim is. Anyhow, he defends that old 
preacher and brings him clear." 

"How did he do it?" 

"Wahl, they was a-having the trial and everything was a-going 
against the preacher 'cause they had the goods right on him. Lawyer 
Jim he just sets there and don't even open his mouth. He don't even 
ask no questions of them witnesses — just sets there and keeps dumb. 
Wahl, sir, the jury was just 'bout to go out and get the verdict and 
bring it in when the old preacher throws a fit, and what a fit! He 
falls to the floor all doubled up and starts beating hisself on the chest 
with his fists, and such howling and carrying on I ain't never seen 
the like of. They had to pick him up and carry him out. Then 
Lawyer Jim puts three witnesses on the stand that testifies that the 
old preacher had them fits all the time. The judge he dismisses the 
case 'cause he says he ain't a-going to try no fitified man. He ain't 
never done it yet and he ain't a-going to start in now. Lawyer Jim, the 
old rascal, knowed all the time how the judge stood on them fitified 
people." 

"The preacher was subject to them fits, huh?" 

"Why, hell no, Lawyer Jim framed the whole thing. That was the 
first fit that preacher had ever threw. Yes, sir, them lawyers is plenty 
smart when it comes to fixing the evidence to clear them people they 
is defending. . . ." 

"Tell me some more 'bout Lawyer Jim." 



Oilfield Idyl 369 

"Lawyer Jim says 'cept for preachers and politicians there ain't no 
bigger graft than the law business. Why, he says it keeps him a-worry- 
ing all the time a-fearing people will find out there ain't nothing to 
this here calling in a lawyer to fix up your own business or mess up 
somebody else's. A man is right or wrong, and a lot of foreign words 
and all them monkeyshines they pull in them courts ain't never proved 
nothing yet. All them lawyers do is to make out you're lying or you 
ain't lying. It don't make no difference if you tell the truth and they 
know you is telling the truth, them lawyers will make out you're lying. 
Yes, sir, that's why Lawyer Jim's such a good lawyer; he's just naturally 
ornery. Most lawyers ain't fit company for honest folks." 

"Tell me 'bout them trials on the river bank." 

"Boy, now them is what I calls real trials. The last one we had, Bud 
Atterbury was up for killing his wife." 

"Both Bud and Borger Reds kill their old women?" 

"Yeh, Bud made out so good in his trial that Borger Reds he decided 
he'd kill his wife for the next one." 

"Tell me 'bout Bud's trial." 

"Wahl, sir, we meets Lawyer Jim out there by Ignorant Hill and 
takes out in the car for the North Canadian. When we gets there we 
makes camp and sets out our trout lines. We do all that first so we 
can get it off our mind. Then we makes a big mulligan, 'bout eight- 
dollar bulk, and then, by God, we starts on the whisky. Along 'bout 
dark we is all feeling mighty good; so we opens court and swears in 
the jury. After going through all them monkeyshines like they do in 
real court, Lawyer Jim puts Bud Atterbury on the stand. 

"'Bud Atterbury,' says Lawyer Jim, 'did you kill your wife?' 

" 'Yeh, I killed her,' says Bud. 

" 'Mr. Atterbury, would you mind a-telling the jury just why and 
how you killed your wife?' 

" 'Wahl,' says Bud, 'I killed her all right. There ain't no need to fret 
'bout that 'cause she's one dead woman. If I says it myself, I done a 
good job of it.' 

"'Very good, Mr. Atterbury, but why did you kill her!' bellows 
Lawyer Jim a-pointing his finger right in Bud's face and looking as 
wise as a treeful of owls. Bud he takes a drink and Lawyer Jim he 
takes one; so the jury calls a recess and we takes one too. Then we 
calls court to order and starts the trial again. 



370 Daniel M. Garrison 

" 'Wahl, sir,' says Bud, 'me and my old woman we ain't never had 
no peace, always a-fighting and a-swearing at each other. Why, there 
ain't a man living who could live with that woman. Just one of them 
nagging women, yi-yi-yi-ing at you all the time. 'Bout a month ago 
I brings home with me a couple of friends, five or six of them, to drink 
a little home-brew and play some poker. And do you know what that 
woman done? She run them off; yeh, that's what she done; she run 
them of! 'bout three o'clock in the morning. Never heard the like of it 
before in all my life. And when we went to them dances that differ- 
ent folks give round the neighborhood, she'd come up to me and say, 
'Bud, why don't you dance with Mrs. Deshazer?' Or Mrs. Sims — all 
them old hags that was her friends. But the women that interest me — 
no, no, sir, she wouldn't want me to talk to them or dance with them. 
Jealous ? Why, that woman wouldn't let me leave the dance floor even 
if I'd been a-drinking home-brew all evening. 

" 'But I don't say nothing. I never said nothing to all her nagging 
and jealous fits. I just keeps my mind and tries to get along with her 
the best I could. Yes, sir, I took a man-size job on myself when I tried 
to get along with that old woman. I thought 'bout running her off a 
time or two; then I'd get feeling kinda sorry for her, 'cause she was 
getting too ugly and mean to land another poor old man.' 

" 'Did you ever try beating her?' 

" 'I ain't one to hit a woman with my fist; no, sir, nobody can say 
Bud Atterbury hit his old woman with his fist. I did try using a club, 
but she took it away from me.' 

" 'How come you killed her?' 

" 'Wahl, one night I goes on a big drunk — what I mean I got fairly 
drunk — and when I come home I had one good drink left in the jar. 
I was a-saving it for the morning. And by God, that woman, that 
soulless woman, poured that one drink I was a-saving for an eye-opener 
out the window. Yes, sir, poured that drink out. Was I mad ? Christ ! 
I went plomb mad. Who wouldn't, when a crazy woman pours out 
that one drink you was a-saving for the morning after ? I was so mad I 
killed her. Just don't remember how I done it, but I killed that nag- 
ging old woman. Yes, sir, and I'd do it again; you're damn right I 
would — pouring out a man's drink he was a-saving for the morning 
after. Sure I killed her. Wouldn't you?' 

" 'Justifiable homicide,' says Lawyer Jim, and then he starts his plead- 
ing for Bud. Mister, there ain't nothing like it when Lawyer Jim 



The Death of Tom Mix 371 

starts his pleading. He bellows, he cries like a baby, he swears, and 
such carryings-on and waving of his hands— it's something! That's 
what I like 'bout them trials, Lawyer Jim a-pleading his case. When 
he finishes with his pleading the jury goes out and brings in the verdict, 
'Not guilty!'" 

"Tell me some more 'bout Lawyer Jim." 

"I'm in a hurry. I've got to meet them boys out by Ignorant Hill." 

"Why did Borger Reds kill his wife?" 

"Hell! He catches her kicking his bird dog. I'll tell you 'bout it 
some other time." 

"If I killed my old woman, could I get to go on them fishing parties?" 
I am t sure. 

"Do you think it would help me any?" 

"Yeh, it would be a big help to you. See you some more." 



THE DEATH OF TOM MIX 

E. S. Forgotson 

Watch him again, leaping a roof-tree, dropping over a cliff — 
The man who knew how to conquer the if — 
Galloping across that fabulous land, 
A pointed six-shooter in either hand. 

With a well-known smile 

He shot out buttons at a mile. 

There were those who wanted to resist him, 

But in the end the lady kissed him. 

I can see we were boys; too young to try 
That bold man to identify. 
The square shone bright, the rows were dim, 
But our eyes were not really on him. 

I really mean History — it's History I blame 
That we could not know that well-known name 
Gone now for good into that smother 
Where we can't tell one from the other. 




Fern Seed-For Peace 



Ruth Bass 



HIGH-JOHN-THE-CONQUEROR ! Rattlesnake-master! 
Asthma-root! Devil's-shoestring! Sampson-snakeroot! Shame- 
weed! Their very names are magic and conjure back the fragrance 
of childhood's summers, even though they might be dispossessed 
of their spirit, the essence of the herb that healed. Where Old 
Con acquired her knowledge nobody knew. Perhaps not simply 
her own life but the lives of her forefathers had given their share to 
her appalling amount of plant lore. Perhaps she belonged, as she 
always maintained, to the same world as the swamp with its cypresses, 
its bayous, its birds, and its scents of sweet bay, candleberry, and witch- 
wood; so intelligence drew on the same source as nature. She pre- 
sumed always that the spirit which quickened her own nimble body 
was of the same essence which animates all living things. 

"Effen a pusson onderstan's," she used to say, "an' loves, den all 
thangs be's dey pardners in seekin' atter wisdom. Cose yo bound tuh 
drink plenty tea biled outen high-John-de-conque'er an' prince-feather 
roots — and totin' a buckeye he'ps." 

When one has come to the end of a wondering period, after weighing 
and comparing and expounding many things, he returns at last to very 
simple memories. This one read Descartes and Hegel and Heraclitus 
in his hunger. That one analyzed his mind and studied his heart. 
Old Con measured her life by a certain gaunt, moss-hung cypress and 
a cardinal flower that burned beside a sluggish bayou. Looking at all, 
I have no assurance, but half believe that the pale Cape Jessamine 
growing from her dust must scent the evening air under the cedars 
because she lived intimately with simple things, jessamine and their 
kind. 

372 



Fern Seed — For Peace 373 

"Con know, honey. Mammy know." Old Con pulled up and began 
fumbling in the voluminous pockets of her pettiskirt. Her glass beads 
rattled. She brought forth at last a little red flannel pillow about two 
inches square. 

"Put dis under yo pillah, Hon. Hit's stuffed wid cattail fuzz an' 
blood-o'-Jesus leaves. Wid roses an' lavendah foh sweetness, an' fern 
seed foh peace. Sleep wid hit, baby. Hit'll bring yo' peace an' safety." 
She blew out the candle and stood stroking a little girl's hair with her 
warm, old hand, while moonlight white as silver lay across the bed 
and a mockingbird sang from the magnolia tree. She had told a par- 
ticularly frightful tale, and neither caresses nor the old songs could 
take the fear from her wide-eyed little girl's mind. The faint odor 
of her coffee hung on the warm air, for Con always enjoyed this re- 
freshment after her chillun were in bed, before she went home for the 
night. Doubtless this was a precaution against the hants that stalked 
her and her flickering, pitch-pine torch across the fields. 

Gradually the scent of lavender and fern seed took possession of the 
child, and Con's old voice bound them closer. "Hit'll bring yo' peace. 
Hit'll dribe off hants and witches. De good Lo'd done pervided a 
plant er root foh every kind ob ailment, whedder ob de body er de 
sperrit. Us be de las' comers on dis arth ... us jes find what alius 
been heah . . . fern seed, hit foh peace. . . ." Too peaceful and con- 
tented and sleepy to listen, the child drifted into a curious, lovely, and 
magic serenity. Too sleepy to listen then, today like wondering chil- 
dren we long to travel again the road which life has traveled before 
us. How natural and comforting that it should be so — scented with 
lavender and fern seed ! 

II 

The Bayou Pierre swamps are tall and wide and wondrous. Those 
who are born near to its dark cloisters know that it is a black world, 
a strange world, and sometimes a fearful world. It is the Negro's own 
world, holding his blessed secrets, his simple loves, his comforting 
philosophies. The ways of life the swamp people lead are as wise and 
as good as ours, and far more strange. In the Bottoms the Negroes 
have builded a society, a philosophy, a science, and an art which be- 
long to the swamp and enable them to live there. Their hearts and 
minds are attuned to the changing moods of the forest. Living near 



374 Ruth Bass 

the swamp's silent loveliness has made them come to know that merely 
to be is perhaps a greater thing than to achieve, to live in peace and 
quiet joy is better than to whirl along on the restless tides of progress. 

A quiet, wide-eyed white child once had the good fortune to be 
taken with Old Con, the herb woman, to gather up and follow to the 
end some of the fraying threads of swamp science and art . . . and 
today jack-in-the-pulpit, angel's-root, and devil's-shoestring come home 
to me in a way that speculative knowledge cannot. Laggard in sleep 
that I was, how many mornings I have waked to hear her voice calling 
that sky-after-rain bloomed blue in the fields and that under giant 
swamp trees the pale ghost-flower hung its shameful head. 

Perhaps my family did not think it fortunate that I had an herb- 
woman for my nurse, when I insisted on carrying a ball of garlic in my 
apron pocket to ward off the evil eye, or when I wore the evil-smelling 
Jimson-weed leaves to church in the crown of my new hat to prevent 
overheating; but the memory of such summers is green and blue and 
crimson. The swamp was Old Con's cotton field, to gather when and 
where she found it growing; and as the spirit of the cotton field is 
friendly to the hard-working, intelligent farmer, so the swamp that 
retires into itself when man goes into it rewarded Con for her patient 
work. As she studied over the plants at great length, testing the leaves 
by holding them to the light, by rubbing and smelling and tasting 
them, her silence always increased the mystery that hung about her. 
Awed by the whisper of great trees, I never questioned. I simply fol- 
lowed, crushing and smelling and tasting after her. 

Fortune's favorites may well envy that happiness that came to a 
child who followed Con over the fields where the butterfly bush burned 
the water rows, and the blue-eyed grass, "blue-star, dat little sistah ob 
de blue queen flag," lit the low meadows. Where the brown thrashers 
sang "Drop it! Drop it! Cover it up! Cover it up! Pull it up! 
Pull it up!" and the cotton fields bloomed red and white. We crossed 
the branch and went on past Con's cabin where it nestled alongside 
the swamp, with the swamp's shadow always upon it like an adumbra- 
tion of the brooding, dangerous, and lovely mystery of the swamp. 
In the cabin yard the prince-feathers were just showing their royal 
crimson velvet and the vervain bloomed. In the garden patch the 
dew-silvered collard leaves sparkled in the sun and the sage and rose- 
mary and mint scented the air to heaven. Then into the swamp itself, 
where the moss-draped trees were alive with little greenish-yellow 



Fern Seed — For Peace 375 

things that Con assured me were only pretending to be birds. I was 
not fooled by them and I am not today, though they have fooled all 
ornithologists into believing they are warblers. The spicy odor of 
mingled scents of dew, bay blossoms, and swamp pine that the swamp 
offered, I recommend to those who are tired of sandalwood and attar 
of roses. 

I would stand silent while Con dug the bulbous root of the showy 
orchids that bloomed elfin-like where the tall trees gathered. I knew 
that she prepared these roots into a highly nourishing food for sickly 
children and that boiled into tea they prevent nightmares and bad 
dreams, the same as mistletoe would. I tried to keep up with her quick 
steps through the rank witchweed and mayapple, while the morning 
sun slipped through the leaves of the tulip trees and water-oaks and 
swamp pines and, farther on, the ghostly, moss-hung cypresses. I 
heard a wood thrush sing, and far off a mourning dove mourned. 
I saw the great pileated woodpecker, "cock of the swamp," and heard 
him hack on a dead pine. I knew that he was a conjure bird and dug 
out all the secrets of the trees. I knew the sweetness of blooming 
hay . . . then suddenly Con stopped and sniffed, her flat nostrils dilated 
as she stood looking through the trees at the immense green of things. 
She left me and made directly for some clumps of rank-growing weed 
that bore compound, lance-shaped leaves. She broke a leaf from this 
plant and very carefully measured the shriveled, rusty, middle finger 
of her left hand with it. She tore off the bit of leaf that reached be- 
yond her finger tip, rolled the remainder of the leaf carefully, and put 
it in her pocket. Then I went to her and she measured the middle 
finger of my little, left hand, tore off the end of the leaf, rolled it up 
carefully, and put it in my pocket. 

"Now yo' kin walk proudful, honey. Dat de ten-finger plant an' 
hit'll give yo' control over peoples. . . ." Con was striding on and I 
followed, my hand on the roll of sharp-scented green leaf in my apron 
pocket and my head full of visions about, the high-handed way I would 
control the folks at home. Later I grew drunk with the scent of 
blooming candleberry and the wondrous knowledge of how its berries 
boiled down would produce wax to straighten hair and whose roots 
boiled in tea would cure headache. It must have been while my eager 
hands gathered these fragrant blossoms that the ten-finger fell out of 
my pocket and I lost, once and for all, my power to control people. 



376 Ruth Bass 

III 

There is a plant provided for every kind of ailment; we simply have 
to find what has always existed for us, Old Con used to say. And 
she had found a use for every plant that grew in the swamp, the fields, 
or about people's houses. 

The king root of all the forest is high-John-the-conqueror. It will 
ward off any disease that has been brought on by conjure, and all 
witches quake when they see a bit of it in a person's hand. This magic 
plant is the marsh St. John's-wort, a member of the same family which 
in Europe has been credited with the power of preserving people 
against lightning. In the swamps of the South the Negroes fear to 
tread on this plant lest they be seized and borne away by hants. It is 
commonly placed under doorsteps to prevent the nightly visitations 
of ghosts, witches, and nightmares. It is a cure-all for any kind of 
wounds, and the dew that gathers upon its leaves is excellent for 
strengthening the eyesight. 

Sampson-snakeroot, a member of the pea family whose flower is of a 
purplish color and whose long, tough root is a "rattlesnake-master," 
holds a place in the swamp Negro's affections next to tobacco and 
coffee. Its roots are boiled into a powerful and invigorating tonic, and 
they drink it by the jugfuls. It is a sure cure for cramping and for loss 
of manhood. Chewing this root and spitting its juice at a person's 
feet will give the chewer control over that person. Always chew some 
Sampson-snakeroot while trading and you will get the best of the 
bargain. It will make a person brave, proudful, and mannish. Even 
chewing leaves of the plant in the presence of any one will give you a 
measure of control of the person. Carrying a bit of the root in one's 
pocket will prevent snakes from biting you. 

Devil's-shoestring, a species of cross vine that bears bright-colored, 
trumpet-shaped flowers, is a powerful plant that is often used in making 
"tricks" by conjurers. Chewed and rubbed on the hands, it will give 
a man control over a woman. This is also useful in drawing a good 
gambling hand. Plant-of-peace, a fairylike little orchis that grows 
profusely in the swamp, is boiled into tea and consumed in great 
quantities as a protection against enemies. It also brings sweet dreams 
to the drinker. Besides these one finds the swamp Negro using shame- 
weed, or sensitive-plant, to make evildoers ashamed and willing to give 
up their wicked ways. He chews heart-leaves to soften the hearts of 



Fern Seed — For Peace 377 

those whom he desires to win. Toadstools wet with camphor will 
ward off conjuration. Mistletoe hung over the door will keep out con- 
jurers. Queer little figures carved from the wood of mistletoe are 
often found on the mantel shelves over the fireplaces or hung on the 
heads of beds. These and many other forest plants, Con knew and 
used. But not these alone; the flowers and weeds that are cultivated 
or discouraged about the cabins — each has some special purpose for 
the Negro who knows how to use it. 

Blue vervain, a purplish-blue member of the verbena family, is the 
one flower found around the doorstep of every cabin in the Bottoms. 
It is planted there to attract lovers. Vervain is sometimes called herb- 
of-the-cross because it is said to have grown on Mount Calvary and 
therefore possesses every sort of miraculous power. It has great value 
as a love potion. It is used as a bridal token. It "hinders witches from 
dey will." The cultivated verbena possesses the same powers. . . . 

Prince's-feather, a tall plant with queer, deep-crimson plush flowers, 
is found in every yard, not only for decorative purposes but because 
of its efficacy in laying tricks and warding off conjuration. Mustard 
seed planted under the doorsteps will keep out ghosts and witches. 
Sprinkling collard seed around the bed will drive off bad dreams and 
nightmares. Red pepper, red onions, and "palma-Christian" are always 
found growing in the garden patches near the cabins. Red pepper is 
an effective charm against hoodoo. It is worn in the shoes, hung over 
the door, and strung across the smoky rafters inside the houses. It is 
used to cure chills and fevers. Red pepper is most powerful if planted 
by a mad person or an idiot. The woman who desires never to have a 
child mixes red pepper and gunpowder in tea of the red-shanks root. 
She puts this in a bottle and sets it away for nine days. She drinks a 
little of this every time the moon changes and remains childless. Red 
onion carried in the left hand in the presence of a conjurer will prevent 
him from conjuring a person. Red-onion juice mixed with the tracks 
of a woman's left foot, then tied in red flannel and worn in the left- 
breast pocket, will call a woman you desire to you. On the whole, 
red onions are lucky to have in the house. Added to the diet in gen- 
erous quantities, they produce health and strength. Garlic is also 
effective in preventing conjuration. A bit of he-garlic carried in the 
pocket will ward off the evil eye and bring good luck generally. 

Con also taught me that wrapping in leaves of "palma-Christian," 
or castor-oil plant, will not only cure chills and fever but as poultices 



378 Ruth Bass 

the leaves will relieve headache and "heatin'-spells." Waving china- 
berry leaves at them will drive off unwanted animals and insects, such 
as stray dogs, goats, flies, or mosquitoes. But never wave a chinaberry 
limb at a stray cat! Even the rank-growing, evil-smelling weeds about 
the cabin lots all have some power. 

The Jimson weed with its white and pale lavender blooms is able 
to tell the time of day. Precisely at four o'clock in the afternoon these 
bell-like blossoms open up and give out their sickening, too-sweet odor 
to attract the great sphinx moth that hovers over them, seemingly 
suspended by magic, so fast is the flutter of its wings. The Jimson 
weed never miscalculates and opens sooner than four o'clock for fear 
the bees might call and gather its narcotic-like nectar to mix with their 
honey. Jimson-weed leaves pounded with the dried head of a snake 
is a powerful poison that, used in a trick, will bring blindness and 
even death upon the victim. Jimson-weed root, pounded with fresh 
pokeberry root, made into tea, and swallowed on the first night of the 
new moon, will prevent conjure during that moon. Dried Jimson- 
weed leaves smoked in cigarettes will cure asthma. Blood-o'-Jesus, a 
common weed whose coarse, dark-red leaves cover the lots and farm- 
yards, is a useful plant. Mix its roots with sugar, spice, and bluestone, 
and wrap (always wrapping toward you) in red flannel and carry it 
about. It will bring you peace and safety. Bowels-of-Christ, a kind 
of green salvia whose leaves turn red around the edge, is stewed in 
lard to make an excellent salve. 

Old Con also taught me that certain trees are taboo. The black folk 
of the Bayou Pierre Bottoms never burn wood that pops loudly when 
burning. Sassafras wood pops and will cause the death of someone 
present when it is burned. They never burn wood of a tree that was 
struck by lightning. They never plant a cedar tree except in a ceme- 
tery. Plant a cedar tree in your yard, and someone you love will die 
as soon as the tree has grown large enough to shade a grave. They 
never burn cobs of seed corn, or the hulls of seed beans or peas, lest 
the sun burn up that crop. Hulls must be thrown into the road, and 
corncobs must rot in the field. If you scatter peanut hulls around your 
door, it means that you will soon go to jail. Trees that rub together 
in the wind and make a creaking sound are looked upon with sus- 
picion. Dogs and cats can see spirits; so they avoid such trees. The 
bark of these trees steeped in rain water and made into a sort of wine 
is used by conjurers to make them strong in the head. The dogwood 



Fern Seed — For Peace 379 

tree is a symbol of immortality because its buds for next year's bloom 
appear before the leaves fall off in autumn. Dogwood root tea made 
from roots "dug crosswise uv de worl' " is a common bitter drink of 
all swamp women. Christ was hung on a cotton wood tree; that's why 
it trembles so. Judas was hung on the redbud tree. Swamp Negroes 
are afraid to pass a blooming Judas or redbud tree at night. The swamp 
maple whose beautiful crimson flowers light the swamps in February 
and whose small leaves are pale underneath is believed by the swamp 
folk to have the power, in some mysterious way, to turn white before 
a storm. 

IV 

Perhaps a few Southern children still tag at the heels of Negro 
servants from nursery to kitchen, from kitchen to cabin and field and 
swamp, where high-John-the-conqueror rules and sweet bay and 
candleberry and a hundred other herbs of magic sweetness offer fra- 
grant balm for many a heartache. Theirs is an experience that sages 
may well envy. To them nature will always be a harvest that can be 
gathered when and where they find it growing. It is an opportunity 
that will vanish before many years. Educational and mechanical sci- 
ences are encroaching upon this swamp and field lore. Already the 
more sophisticated Negroes despise this crude yet natural magic of 
tree and flower. Old Con is gone, and not one of her own children 
or grandchildren has claimed the legacy of her plant knowledge. 
Only in the heart of her big-eyed, solemn white-baby does fern seed 
still bring peace and vervain kindle love. Though Old Con's flicker- 
ing, pitch-pine torch has gone out and the ghostly plat-eyes wander 
aimlessly over the lowland, lonely and forsaken, the spirit of the swamp 
is still friendly to those who care for its knowledge. In its dim, sweet 
places where the yellow jasmine tosses its blossoms in showers of gold 
the human heart, whether white or black, can steal away to God. 

A long-legged, thirteen-year-old girl was privileged to stand on the 
hill to the north, under the cedars and Cape jessamines, at the burying 
they gave Con. Of prayer and Bible reading there was none. There 
was no sermon. Instead the Negro preacher lifted his powerful voice 
and sang a couplet in praise of old Con. In a long strophe the sound 
went winging across the generation of dark sleepers as sweetly and 
as spontaneously as the redbird's whistle from the cedars, or the mock- 



380 Ruth Bass 

ingbird's song from the bridal wreath. From the crowd a woman's 
voice took up the story. One by one her friends wove for Con a 
wreath of song. Most likely no one present could ever recall a line 
of it afterwards, but to a listening child the "Spiritual" seemed to float 
across a dark and cloistered bayou to plead for a simple, erudite, kindly 
old soul. 

In the South the Negroes keep the practice of bringing to a person's 
grave some of the things that had been precious to the living — cups, 
vases, china bowls, lamps (to light the soul to glory). To the graves 
of children they bring little china-doll heads and toy animals. The 
earth above Old Con was covered with the flowers she had known and 
loved so well. Wild sweet honeysuckle, crimson flowers of the maple, 
pale lavender and pink sweet williams, and white, withering dogwood. 
A brown thrasher called from a blooming briar thicket, "Drop it! 
Drop it! Cover it up! Cover it up!" His song is lost in the voices 
of men and women: 

"Who'll be a-livin' 

When Ah'm daid ? 
Trees'll be a-livin' an' a-wavin' 

When Ah'm daid ! 
Birds'll be a-livin' an' a-singin' 

When Ah'm daid — 
Roses'll be a-livin' an' a-bloomin' 

When Ah'm daid!" 

It goes on until the thirteen-year-old feels utterly extinguished — less 
than the grass, less than the vervain, less than the fern leaves she has 
dropped among the dogwood. 

But suddenly the song restores her spirit with a great shout — "Who'll 
be a-livin' when Ah'm daid? Ah will! Ah will!" It is Old Con 
rubbing and smelling and tasting leaves of flowers in Paradise, while a 
wide-eyed cherub tags along wondering why she gathers the fern seed. 




The Beast 

Katharine Shattuck 



SHE had been wakened at dawn by the pounding. 
She sat up in bed and saw that the child in the next room was 
also sitting up, listening. 

"What is that noise?" she cried and sank down, but the woman con- 
tinued listening. 

The horse hoofs had sounded on the stable floor all the previous eve- 
ning in uneasy tread, but this was different— louder and more hollow 
and intermittent. 

Light lay in the room in grey drifts, which feathered off, as she 
stared at them, into the scarcely discernible outline of chest, mantel, 
wall. The windows blurred greyer and greyer, but the pounding was 
insistent and at last she crept from the bed, leaving her husband asleep 
beneath the sheet. 

So as not to disturb the child she went through the hall and unlocked 
the front screen, which was the only door they used in summer. At 
sight of the locked door she thought as she did every morning that 
locking yourself in was stupid since blackness seeped in through crack 
and keyhole, screen, shutter, and glass. 

On the lawn in the mist the trees like smoke blew up. The whole 
visible world streamed in greyness, unfamiliar, though she saw it each 
morning, for she was a light sleeper and rose almost always at dawn. 

The horse was in the stall her husband had made for him at the rear 
of the house. At one time, they had discovered, it had been a large 
and commodious outdoor toilet and housed the cesspool from the house 
as well, so that the floor was hollow, built over an excavation sixteen 
feet deep. 

The night before, it had seemed so right to have the horse looking 
out over the swinging doors into the yard, the long face with its white 

381 



382 Katharine Shattuck 

blaze and the unspeaking intelligence. She was afraid of horses as 
of all animals; yet they seemed chained and sad to her, unspeakably 
sad like the enchantments laid on princes in the fairy tales. Poor 
beast, poor horse, and prince or horse to be feared. Shuddering, she 
crossed herself, like a child exorcising evil. 

She walked on the grass in her white gown and bare feet past the 
two lilac trees, which crumpled grey south of the house. 

At the southwest corner of the house she stopped. She held the 
hard realness of the stone wall in her hand, as if it were talisman against 
the danger, unknown and impalpable, a hollow sound of pounding, a 
non-human, non-animal groaning, that lurked in the shadow across 
the lawn and beneath the row of elm trees rising beyond the stable. 

Birds were waking. Roosters crowed on every farm along the valley. 
The cheering daylight sound did not disperse the shadow here on the 
hill, or interrupt the pounding, which must have come from the stable, 
although she could not definitely locate it, or would not, feeling the 
urgency of her husband's displeasure if she were unable to tell him 
she had crossed the yard, unbolted the stable doors, removed the iron 
rod, and, flinging wide the doors, perceived in all its terror or pity or 
blackness whatever it was making the sound. He expected so much of 
her, demanding that she be upright and gay, young and old, all things 
in one; and she was not equal to being these things. 

The doors banged out as if with bursting, and she caught one glimpse 
of the horse's head rearing; enough to tell her the trouble lay in the 
stable. 

She ran back to the house, crouching in a white bundle on the steps 
of the porch. Her white face stared over the valley, which disappeared 
completely in the mist as the sun rose and the trees on the hill became 
solidly trees, green, blowing a little in the morning breeze, filled with 
the hidden, raucous cry of birds. 

The pounding in the back yard continued. 

It became, now it was daylight, the sound of a horse banging against 
the stable door. In trouble, she thought with sudden compassion and 
ran into the room where her husband lay, to wake him. 

He came out of sleep slowly and sat up, seeing her before him as in a 
dream — colorless hair, pale face, startling great eyes. 

"The horse!" she cried. "Something's happening to the horse." 

Still in the envelope of sleep he stumbled into his shoes, tangling 
the laces until he gave up tying them. He pulled his trousers on and 



The Beast 383 

went swiftly through the house past the child, who was rousing now 
and crying "Maggie" for her mother. 

It was a clear day. The mist was going in the valley. The hard 
outline of tree, building, shadow was sharp in the sun. 

He ran to the stable and unbolting the doors saw what he already 
knew had happened, what he had known would happen. When he 
had first planned to put the horse in a stable at the house, Karl, the 
Bohemian farmer in the valley, had said, "You put your horse there she 
break through. The floor he won't hold her. I tell you." But he had 
gone ahead with his plans. He had been so eager to have the horse 
where he could ride him every day, where Maggie and the child could 
ride. But Maggie would be afraid. Unadmitted, it had been another 
test, another, perhaps the last grasping after the other days when 
Maggie was not afraid. Impalpable, untouchable, the past was going, 
going. All this he thought as he unbolted the doors and flung them 
wide. 

With the doors open, the horse lay in the entry. 

His body was wet, trembling, dark, his neck outstretched. 

"Ginger!" The man knelt beside him. 

In one glance he saw what had happened. A rotting plank, worked 
loose by the animal's tread, had tipped up with his weight. The right 
rear leg had plunged through the flooring near the wall, dangling 
clear to the groin in the hollow room beneath. The animal, struggling 
to stand on his forefeet, pawing the floor, chest and head rearing, struck 
in vain against the nothingness beneath, struggling. The great eyes 
strained as if with speech. Sweat streamed on his coat. 

"Ginger!" the man cried. He brought him water, petted him. The 
quivering, terrified animal for one moment lay quiet, and then the 
forefeet began again the horrible pounding in their struggle to stand, 
as if the horse, dismembered, were struggling to walk. The hideous 
inarticulate animal cry sounded again. 

The man stopped at the house to answer his wife when she called 
to him. The child was in her arms. Her long hair streamed over 
them both. 

"I'll have to get Karl. He told me it would happen. We may have 
to get the rendering-plant truck. They've got a hoist. 

"I don't know. I feel terrible. It's my fault. I should have known." 

He was young, almost boyish, almost innocent in his eagerness to 
make his living real, naive in his believing. 



384 Katharine Shattuck 

He sped down the hill in his car. 

The summer sun, high in freshness, had dried the dew. The outer 
trees on the knoll beyond the drive were sharply delineated as trees, 
but within they stood in black and deep shadow. The cows came up 
past them in a long blond row. 

"Karl's milked," he thought matter-of-factly against the strange 
skein of the day. 

Nights now were so bad that any daylight, however filled with 
danger, was to be desired. To keep day and night separate — that was 
the thing — clearly marked in divisibility; the one matter-of-fact, safe, 
ordinary, peaceful, dull even; the other filled with Maggie's crying. 
The line between light and darkness was sudden. Something inde- 
finable happened. Not a line in geography to be crossed or perceived, 
it was the same air, the same place, but different. 

She had been gay always, the happiest creature he had ever known, 
the freest. He had counted on her the most, been surest of her. And 
now, silently, efficiently, she did her daylight tasks in greyness, crying 
at night. Scene after scene filled his eyes, and now as if some demand 
too great were being made of her, she was changing under his eyes. 
He did not understand. 

He stopped the car and opened the grey latticework gate to the 
farm and drove the car through. On either side were flowered banks 
of daisies, larkspur, horsemint. 

Chickens were pecking in the road and fluttering ahead of him, 
squawking. 

The dogs at the farmhouse barked, and the farmer came out, chew- 
ing the last cud of his breakfast. 

"Gee Christ whiz!" he said and wiped his mouth with his hand. 

He jumped into the car. 

"That horse he'll kill himself," he said. "You get a son beetch hurry." 

In the yard again he took charge. 

Maggie, in her white gown, still holding the child, whom she had 
dressed, however, cowered in the background beyond the grass-grown 
cistern head. 

Karl, short, lively, wiry, dark, with coarse, leathered skin and a 
back that had lifted a loaded wagon sunk to its hubs in mud, fluttered 
around the horse like an angry fly. The animal worn by his frantic 
and unavailing struggle lay now with stretched neck on the stable 
floor, steaming sweat, its stench rising in a vapor around him. He 



The Beast 385 

was a chestnut, large for a saddle horse, with a handsome beautifully 
blazed face. 

"He'll kill himself." Karl twisted the horse's tail and heaved against 
the flank, but one man's strength was no match for a horse's weight. 

They tore the flooring loose, and, lowering a ladder into the pit 
beneath the room, they descended into the ammonic stink below to 
watch the action of the horse's leg in its fight against the vague, the 
untouchable blackness beneath. Karl, unconvinced that brute force 
was not the answer, pushed against the hoof; and the horse, with the 
fearful reaching of the dying after air, struggled to stand, hoofs pound- 
ing, head straining, eyes starting. 

The futile pounding forelegs gave up and he sank down. 

The men scratched their heads, cursed, and tried new tactics. A 
block and tackle was like a child's idea. They tied a rope around the 
horse's belly and pulled at the forelegs as if to saw them off, so that 
the dismembered quarters could then be lifted out at will and be 
disposed of. The watching woman saw it and with a scream pro- 
tested. Karl in one of his lightning leaps disappeared to the barn and 
returned with a huge drag chain, which they fastened to the bumper 
of the car and to the rope around the horse's middle. Then the man, 
maneuvering against his will, put the engine into low, reversed, pulled 
in low again — gasoline engine against horse, a cruelty the woman 
could not endure and she screamed again. The straining, beseeching 
face of the animal wavered behind the blowing fumes of gasoline. 

With five attempts they succeeded in dragging him half over the 
threshold. But at the moment the hindquarters came free, the foreleg 
went down into the hole, the momentarily released weight of the board 
giving like a child's teeter-totter. And then the horse gave up. 

"She's a no go." Karl wiped the sweat from his face with the back 
of his hand and stood panting with the exertion of pushing at the 
horse. "She's a no go." 

"I'll get some more men." 

He jumped into the car and disappeared down the hill. 

People were going to early mass in the valley. A common Sunday 
quiet lay on the air. At the foot of the hill he had to wait for a car to 
pass. People waved to him. He did not recognize them, did not re- 
spond. The thing — whatever it was — that was happening on the hill 
encased him in its shadow. On the edge of it stood Maggie, holding 
the child. He had not had time, he had not had the heart to go to 



386 Katharine Shattuck 

her and with his arm about her suggest that she dress, leading her 
toward the house. She with the submissiveness that was so new in 
her, so frightening, would have gone, would have returned neatly 
dressed in a shirtwaist and skirt, her hair twisted in its knot behind — a 
woman and a stranger to him. Only in bed now did he know her. 
He could not define the change in her, could not discern its meaning. 
He rubbed the shadow away from his eyes and concentrated on the 
horse, the men he was to get, this actual thing that was to be done. 

He crossed the bridge. 

The river, dark brown where it did not reflect the banks, moved on 
its sluggish inevitable way to the Mississippi. They had spent hours 
on the river together, swimming beside their canoe, lying on the cush- 
ions, watching the green, closed world slide past. Now she was afraid 
of water and would not go, hating it with a violence out of all propor- 
tion to the fear even. He saw the small white face, the glittering eyes, 
the beating fists: "I will not go, I will not go." Her anger was not 
against him, he thought. It was some life sickness he could not grasp. 

He turned to the left and stopped in the yard of a farmhouse on the 
edge of the town. 

Slim Drummond stood beside his black car in the yard, paring his 
fingernails. He was dressed in black for church, but turned over the 
car keys to his eldest daughter when he heard of the accident, and 
came out in five minutes dressed in blue jeans and shirt. A wide- 
brimmed Stetson hat, old and greasy, was pushed back on his head. 
He was tall and as slim as a boy, but with an old man's face and pow- 
erful hands. 

"Call Jim Roberts," he said. "Tell him to bring his hired man. A 
horse'll kill himself." 

They went up the hill. Karl was working over the horse, which 
lay exhausted on the floor, in resignation worse than struggle. Karl's 
broad Bohemian face with its creased leather hide and black eyes 
recognized Slim's presence, but he did not speak. 

The child was running in the yard, pattering, picking flowers, and 
the man picked her up and handed her to her mother, patting her arm 
and looking at her gravely. 

"I think you'd better go inside, Maggie," he said. 

Taking the child's hand, she moved toward the house. 

Whatever it was happening to the horse in the yard held her and 
she stopped by the house, identified with the struggle as if the horse 



The Beast 387 

by getting free would free her too from terror, this loneness she had 
stood in since she first knew two people could come no nearer than 
touch. It wasn't the work; it wasn't the fears even or that living was 
harder than she had thought. It was that you did it alone. 

The men stood over the horse, silently appraising the work to be 
done. 

A car roared on the hill, and Jim Roberts came around the house — a 
big man, thick of chest and strong, with a good-natured face. He 
pushed his hat back and scratched his head. 

There was a moment of disagreement; Karl favored the block and 
tackle. But suddenly co-ordinated, as if the work to be done deter- 
mined the method, making the many one, they took their places: the 
man at the head, tugging on the halter; Karl at the shoulder pushing; 
the other two at the tail, lifting it like a handle. 

The great neck lay stretched on the threshold, trembling. 

Woman and horse, one, waited an indefinable moment when, lifted 
in terror, they were not yet free. 

In rhythm, in silence, and with tremendous effort, the men heaved 
the horse out of the stall. Sliding free of the stable, the four legs lay 
stretched on solid ground, the head lay on the grass. The huge body 
was motionless, hardly a horse, as if by death disenchanted. Blood 
like sweat streaked the quivering groin. 

"She's a beesiness," Karl panted, squinting at the underside of the 
horse, his hands on his knees. "He's a big. Get him up. Let him 
piss. He's a swelled." 

The four men stood over the body, breathing. Karl pranced like a 
matador or an insect. "Get him up. She's a — " 

"Let him lie a minute. Let him get his breath. Ginger. So, boy." 
The man rubbed the muzzle, and picking some clover gave it to the 
horse. 

The men slapped and beat at the horse, calling the threats men use 
against animals in command ; and at last the horse stood, wavering on 
its slender legs, crumpling, then solid. Nothing was broken then. The 
man gave him water to drink. 

The woman came along the grass, leading the child by the hand, 
walking in her white nightgown, her bare feet showing beneath. Her 
hair covering her shoulders, hung to her waist. The sun as if caught 
shone in it. The delicately-boned face and great eyes were uplifted; 
the face was strange. Unhesitating, without fear, she came up to the 



388 Katharine Shattuck 

horse and taking the head in her arms rubbed the muzzle with her 
face. The man, warmed in gratitude, put his arm on her shoulders. 
"Poor Ginger," he said, feeling Maggie's hair against his face. His 
eyes stung. Everything was all right, he thought. Everything was 
going to be all right. He had been imagining fears. The horse's pre- 
dicament had made him foolish. 

She looked into the horse's face and said, "Poor horse, poor beast," 
and kissed it, rubbing the blaze with her cheek. 

Karl seized the halter and led the horse up and down the yard. The 
legs were stiff. Blood, bright red, showed on the groin where the 
animal had been cruelly sawed as he had hung. 
The woman, leaving the child, went back to the house. 
Now the exertion was over, the return to commonness seemed a 
little silly. They pushed their hats back, wiped their faces. The man 
took a cigarette and handed the others each one. 
"He's a beesiness," he said and they laughed in relief. 
Smoke uptrailed in silly morning incense. A chicken was crowing. 
It was still morning, the same world. The floor of the stable was shat- 
tered and splintered, the grass on the threshold was pounded, hair from 
the horse's tail lay on the floor, but other sign of disaster there was 
none, he thought. Shadows lay in their accustomed order. On the 
clothesline at the edge of the yard a child's bib was blowing. 
Karl led the horse down the hill to the barn. 

Slim Drummond and Jim Roberts muttered that they must be get- 
ting on. 

The man caught up the child in his arms. He watched them drive 
away, the black Chrysler car shining in the sun in unmeaningful day- 
light reality. 

The child patted his chin and said: "Your horse will be all right, 
Daddy. I think your horse will be all right." 

A wren flew away from the cistern. The doors in the empty stall 
were open, banging a little in the wind. 
The child in his arms was saying: "Your horse will be all right." 
They went into the house. 
She was sitting by the table in the kitchen. 

He put his hand on her shoulder. "Are you all right, Maggie?" 
She had knotted her hair behind and put on a blouse and skirt. 
"Are you all right?" 



The Last Corn Shoc\ 389 

Table and counters in the kitchen were scrubbed white. There were 
no shadows in the room. In the neat whiteness of stove, icebox, walls 
there were no shadows. 

"Are you all right?" 

She turned. He saw the line of the cheeks he had loved for their 
roundness, the white plane of forehead beneath the hair. 

"I'm all right," she said. She touched his hand with her face, giving 
him the talisman he wanted, knowing its worth. 



THE LAST CORN SHOCK 

Glenn Ward Dresbach 

I remember how we stood 

In the field, while far away 
Blue hazes drifted on from hill to hill 
And curled like smoke from many a sunset wood, 
And the loaded wagon creaked while standing still . . . 

I heard my father say, 

"The last corn shock can stay." 

We had seen a pheasant there 

In the sun; he went inside 
As if he claimed the shock, as if he meant 
To show us, with the field so nearly bare, 
We had no right to take his rustic tent. 

And so we circled wide 

For home, and let him hide. 

The first wild ducks flashed by 

Where the pasture brook could hold 
The sunset at the curve, and drifting floss 
Escaped the wind and clung. The shocks were dry 
And rustled on the wagon. Far across 

The field, against the cold, 

The last shock turned to gold. 




The Funeral 



William March 



WHEN her little niece died, Mrs. Kirby went at once to her 
brother's house on Madison Street and took charge of things. 
She had made all the arrangements for the funeral herself; she had 
even selected the small, satin casket, and she stood, now, receiving late 
floral offerings and greeting the friends who came to offer their 
sympathy. 

"It's very sad," she kept saying. "I can't believe it, even yet. Only 
a week ago and she was as well and strong as you or I. She took sick 
two days after her seventh birthday." 

The bell rang again and she turned from her friends and opened 
the front door. It was then that she saw Reba, the cook's little girl. 
Reba stood beside the fence, a look of amazement on her scarred, black 
face. Her nappy hair had been plaited by her mother and tied with 
thread the Sunday before, but the thread was coming loose and the 
plaits, unraveled a little now, stood up on her skull like tiny lengths 
of frayed, black hemp. She was wearing a faded, print dress which 
the dead child had outgrown; but the dress was too small for Reba, as 
well, and beneath it her bare legs and a stretch of her lathlike, black 
thighs were visible. 

Mrs. Kirby opened her mouth, as if to speak to the child, but she 
did not. She merely took the wreath from the delivery boy and went 
into the parlor where the coffin was. She put the flowers down, and 
when she came back to the hall, she saw that other friends had come. 
The new arrivals went at once and stood above the small white casket. 
They were early, and after whispering together, they seated themselves 
at the far end of the room and waited for the funeral service to begin. 

Mrs. Kirby came onto the porch once more, stopping beside the 
cypress vines. "Reba," she said, "you can't stand out here staring at 
people. Go play in the back yard." 

390 



The Funeral 391 

"Yassum," said Reba. "Yassum." She moved from the fence re- 
gretfully, looking back over her shoulder. At that moment the florist's 
wagon turned the corner and stopped again, and the delivery boy came 
up the walk with another design. It was from the schoolchildren of 
the little girl's class this time. The design was almost as tall as Reba 
herself, and it showed two gates swinging outward, gates made of 
dampened moss into which flowers had been stuck. Above the opening 
gates, and supported by a rod, there floated a stuffed, white dove with 
outspread wings. 

"Reba," said Mrs. Kirby patiently. "Reba, don't you hear me talking 
to you ? Go back to the kitchen and stay with your mother." 

Reba looked at her imploringly. "Yassum," she said meekly. "Yas- 
sum." But it was not possible for her to move from the fence. She 
turned her neck and her black, bullet-shaped head slowly, following 
the floral offering up the steps with her eyes and sighing when the door 
shut away its magnificence. Mrs. Kirby started to speak again, but 
changed her mind. She went to the kitchen where Cora, the cook, 
bent over her sink, was scrubbing pots. 

"You must tell your little girl to stay away from the fence," she said. 
"She's standing there staring at everybody who comes in. I've told 
her to go away, but she won't mind me." 

Cora looked up and wiped her lips on her sleeve. "Reba ain't got 
good sense," she said reproachfully. "You knows that. You knows 
Reba never did have good sense." She turned ponderously and reached 
for the thick switch that lay on the shelf above the wood-box. She 
went into the side yard and stood half-screened by shrubbery. "Come 
away from that fence, gal!" she whispered fiercely. "Come away from 
that fence befo' I put another knot on your haid !" 

"Yassum," said Reba meekly. "Yassum." 

She backed warily away from her mother, making a wide half- 
circle, but when the clump of cypress trees and small crepe-myrtles 
was between them, she turned and ran, throwing her legs out. 

"Let me ketch you by that fence agin," said Cora. "Jes' let me hear 
one mo' word about how you doin' !" She followed her daughter, shak- 
ing her switch, but Reba ran into the kitchen, picked up the scouring 
cloth and began washing the pots still left in the sink. 

When the dishes were done, she went onto the back porch and 
stood beside the steps, remembering once more the remarkable things 
she had seen that day. She sat down by the window on an upturned 



392 William March 

scrubbing bucket and began plaiting the strands of an old mop with 
her black fingers. Then she got up quickly, having forgotten her 
mother's wrath, and went again to the side yard, but this time she did 
not go near the gate; instead, she sat in the swing that hung from the 
limb of a small sycamore tree. 

The swing and the tree were partly surrounded by the half-circle of 
crepe-myrtles and cypress saplings, and it would be difficult for Mrs. 
Kirby to see her there. She gripped the two ropes of the swing and 
propelled herself backward and forward, her head nodding rhythmi- 
cally to the creaking of the ropes, one bare skinny leg dragging in the 
dust like a brake. 

Between gaps in the shrubbery she caught glimpses of the sidewalk. 
Many people were coming to the funeral now, and when she twisted 
sideways and craned her neck she could see them open the gate and 
walk on tiptoes up the gravel path. At length the minister turned 
in at the gate, and the funeral service was about to begin. The min- 
ister was dressed in black, and he was tall and solemn. His eyes, at 
once stern and forgiving, looked searchingly at the congregated people 
before he inclined his head a little, as if he gave his blessing to all alike. 

Reba began swinging wildly, her head higher than the limb to 
which the swing was fastened, her black, outthrust legs agitating the 
tops of the crepe-myrtles. It was then she saw, above the tops of the 
shrubbery, that there was no longer room for visitors inside the house, 
and that latecomers stood on the porch outside. Beyond the gate, on 
the sidewalk, the classmates of the dead child waited, their backs 
pressed against the picket fence. 

She swung back and forth furiously and laughed with a strange ex- 
citement which she did not understand. Then all at once she became 
quiet. She brought the swing to a standstill as quickly as she could, 
trailing one leg in the dust as a brake, and glanced fearfully from Mrs. 
Kirby to her mother. 

Mrs. Kirby said: "You can't hear anything inside except that swing 
creaking back and forth, and it looks from the windows like a hurri- 
cane had hit the tops of those crepe-myrtle bushes." 

"Come away from that swing, gal!" said Cora angrily. "Come away, 
like I tell you!" 

"Yassum," said Reba in her soft, meek voice. "Yassum." 

She sidled cautiously away, and when she had the shrubbery between 
herself and her mother, she began to run. She ran as far as the old 



The Funeral 393 

carriage-house, but she stopped there, grinning foolishly. "You see, 
Mrs. Kirby?" said Cora. "You see?" 

When Mrs. Kirby had gone, Cora walked toward the carriage-house 
but she stopped when she was almost there. "What make you pick 
a day like this to act so crazy?" she asked. "If it wasn't disrespectful 
to the daid, I'd whup you within an inch of your life." She went back 
to her work, pretending that she had forgotten about the swing, and 
a few moments later Reba came trotting up the path. 

Cora seized her by the neck when she came in the door. "Now, 
Miss," she said triumphantly. "I got you now, and I ain't gwiner let 
you get away from me agin." She shoved her down onto the stool 
beside the stove and thrust a bowl into her hands. "Here, gal," she 
said. "Finish shelling them peas." She went into the pantry and 
began sifting flour on her breadboard. "Say something, Reba," she 
said. "Keep saying something so I'll know you ain't run off agin." 

"I don't know nothing to say." 

"Say yassum. Keep saying yassum." 

"Yassum," said Reba meekly. 

She picked up the bowl and began shelling the peas, thinking once 
more of the funeral. It was the first time she had seen a funeral for 
white folks, and she had not imagined that anything could be so mag- 
nificent; but there was much that she did not understand, and as her 
mother walked from pantry to kitchen and back again, she considered 
these puzzling matters with her slow mind. A week ago the little girl 
who had died had merely been another child, like any other, but with 
death she had taken on a strange sort of importance; and people who 
had hardly known her now crowded the house for the privilege of 
looking at her; they wept openly for her; they wore black in her 
honor; they sent her flowers. 

It was then that Mrs. Kirby came into the kitchen and asked Cora if 
she wanted to see the little girl for the last time. Cora began to cry, 
wiping her eyes on her skirt. She rolled down her sleeves, put on a 
clean apron, and followed Mrs. Kirby into the hall; but she stopped in 
the doorway and spoke warningly: "Keep sitting on that stool until I 
get back, Reba," she said. "You move one inch off that stool and I'm 
going to put a knot on your head. See if I don't." 

"Yassum," said Reba meekly. "Yassum." 

She sat quietly for a time, trying to concentrate on the peas before 
her, but when somebody began to play on a fiddle, and somebody began 



394 William March 

to sing a white-folks' hymn which was both sad and comforting, she 
could hold out no longer. She put down the bowl and twisted her 
raveling plaits, rolling her black, bullet-shaped head from side to side. 
Then she got up from the stool and went through the back door. 
"Yassum," she said pleadingly in the direction her mother had taken. 
"Yassum." 

When she turned the corner of the house, she saw that the hearse and 
the carriages for people to ride in to the cemetery had come. The 
hearse was drawn by white horses and they stood, now, shaking out 
their manes and biting at each other's necks. Reba took in these details 
quickly and then dropped to her hands and knees, following the line 
of shrubbery that circled the house. She crawled carefully, and when 
she reached the parlor window, she stretched her thin neck upward 
and peered in. 

The first thing she saw was the coffin. It was set in the middle of 
the room. It was pure white and beautiful, and it was piled high with 
flowers. There were silver handles to the coffin, and streamers of white 
ribbons hung from its sides. She caught her breath with amazement. 
She stared with her mouth half-open, her eyes wide with wonder. 

The preacher stood beside the casket and comforted the weeping 
people. Then he turned and spoke to the parents of the dead child: 
The ways of God are not our ways, and it was not given to mortals to 
understand them. We could only bear our losses with fortitude, and 
this mother and this father must comfort themselves in the knowledge 
that their child was not dead in the real sense of the word, but that 
she awaited them in heaven. 

Reba sighed and shifted her weight. She craned forward a little, 
and she saw her mother standing against the far wall. Cora's shoulders 
shook with her grief, and at intervals she lifted her apron and pressed 
it flat against her streaming eyes. All at once Reba sank back on her 
haunches, her face cupped in her palms. "Yassum," she said softly, 
drawing the word out interminably. "Yassum." 

The service was over at last and men carried the coffin down the 
steps and put it into the waiting hearse, piling the flowers around it. 
Then, when the carriages were filled and the hearse moved away, Reba 
could remain hidden no longer. She went again to the fence and 
stared openly, dragging her feet in the dust. The procession was under 
way now, and as it moved off, the schoolchildren, who had waited so 
patiently, fell in behind the last carriage and marched solemnly. 



The Funeral 395 

The last carriage had disappeared around the corner when Reba felt 
her head jerked backward and heard her mother's voice. "Now, then!" 
Cora said. "Now, then, I'll settle with you, Miss!" She shoved her 
daughter forward until they reached the old carriage-house. Reba fell 
down and pressed her face into the dust. "Don't whup me," she 
begged. "I won't do it no more. Don't whup me, please, ma'am." 
But her mother brought the stick down over her cringing head and 
shoulders. "You gwiner mind me," she said. "From now on, you 
gwiner do what I tell you!" 

The whipping was over at last and Cora started back to the house, 
but she stopped in the path. "They'll be back from the graveyard in 
a little while, and they'll be hongry. I got to get supper going," she 
said. Then she sighed despairingly and raised her arms outward. 
"What make you do the way you do, Reba?" she asked. "What make 
you provoke me the way you do?" She rolled down her sleeves. "I 
ain't a mean woman. Ever'body knows I ain't a mean woman." 

"Yassum," said Reba. 

"Go wash that blood ofPn your haid," said Cora, "and then bring 
me in some stovewood." 

"Yassum," said Reba meekly. "Yassum." 

She waited until her mother was in the kitchen and then she stood 
up, leaning against the door. She unbuttoned her dress and turned her 
head sideways, examining the bruises on her scarred back. She touched 
the bleeding place on her head and began to cry again. "Yassum," 
she said. "Yassum." She sank to the ground once more, her hands, 
with fingers interlocked, clutched between her thin, black knees. She 
rocked back and forth and made her foolish, intaken sound. "Yassum!" 
she said over and over. "Yassum! Yassum! Yassum!" 

She got up after a while and carried in the wood for her mother, but 
when the box was filled, she went again to the side yard and stood at 
the gate. It was beginning to get dark, and already the cypresses and 
the crepe-myrtle bushes cast shadows against the house. Before her, 
on the gravel walk, were the heads of flowers, fixed by florist's wire to 
toothpicks, which had fallen from the mossy designs in which they 
had originally rested. Reba picked up the flowers and stuck them into 
her tightly plaited, nappy hair, until it looked, after a moment, as if 
she wore a white wreath on her head. 

Afterwards she went to the swing and shoved herself backwards 
and forwards, thinking once more of the little white girl's funeral. At 



396 William March 

first it had seemed to her that the funeral could not have been more 
magnificent, but familiarity with its details made her, now, more 
critical; and as she swung back and forth, one leg dragging in the 
dust like a brake, she talked to herself: 

"When I have my funeral," she said, "I'm gwiner have me a band, 
too. Gwiner have all white horses at my funeral, and folks gwiner 
send up rockets that night." 

Then, slowly, she let the swing come to rest and sat quietly. 

Something important had occurred to her and she was motionless 
for a time, her hands gripping the ropes of the swing. "Why, I can 
have a funeral, too, if I feel like it," she said in surprise. "Nothing to 
stop me from having a funeral as good as anybody, if I want to." 

She swung back and forth slowly, pondering this idea, her toes 
almost reaching to the edge of the crepe-myrtle bushes. It seemed to 
her at that moment that she had found out, unaided, a fact of great 
importance, a thing which should be known to everybody, but was 
not. She opened her eyes very wide. She threw back her bullet-shaped 
head, and made her foolish, intaken sound. The thing she had dis- 
covered seemed so simple, so easy to arrange, that she wondered why 
everybody else didn't think of it too. 

"Why, there ain't nothing to having a funeral," she said contemptu- 
ously. "I can have a funeral if / want to; ever'body can have a funeral 
if they want to." She swung more rapidly, her legs shooting up above 
the top of the crepe-myrtles. When she remembered again the words 
the preacher had spoken as he stood beside the white child's coffin 
that very afternoon, it did not seem sensible that anybody would want 
to live in a world as harsh as this one was when they could have, so 
easily, not only eternal happiness in heaven, but a magnificent funeral 
as well. She brought the swing to a stop and got up. She took the 
wooden seat from the swing and stood it carefully against the trunk 
of the tree. 

She hesitated a moment, then, having made up her mind, she climbed 
the sycamore like a small, excited monkey, anxious to put her plan 
through before her mother or Mrs. Kirby found out what she was up 
to and stopped her. She straddled the limb to which the swing was 
fixed and unfastened the knots in the rope; she wound the rope around 
the limb until she had shortened it expertly to the length she needed, 
laughing all the time with pleasure and nodding her head in anticipa- 
tion of her triumph. 



The Funeral 397 

Cora came onto the porch and called, "Reba ? Reba, where you at ? 
I want you to go to the meat market for me." 

But Reba flattened against the tree. She held her breath while her 
mother continued to call, seeing again, in her mind's eye, the tri- 
umphant details of her approaching funeral. First, there were the 
white horses and the brass bands. The bands played slow, sad music 
continuously, and the proud horses, as if conscious of the importance 
of such an occasion, pawed at the ground and shook out their white, 
silken manes. Mrs. Kirby was dressed in black silk, and she pressed a 
lace handkerchief to her eyes. She stood at the front door to take the 
floral designs, explaining the details of Reba's death to the mayor of 
the town, the minister of the Baptist church, and the unending stream 
of lesser people who crowded behind them. 

"It's little Reba, this time," said Mrs. Kirby. "Yes, sir, it's little 
Reba, and we're all so upsot we just don't know what to do!" She 
began to cry again. "Looks like we don't get shut of one funeral in 
this house till we have another one, now does it?" She bowed her 
head submissively. "Yassum," she continued, as if answering a par- 
ticular question, "Reba was a sweet child, and no two ways about it. 
I tell you ever'bo&y gwiner miss Reba, and that's a fact!" 

Cora called from the porch: "Reba! Reba! Where you at? You 
better answer me, gal, if you know what's good for you!" She stood 
a moment on the steps as if debating a point, then she went toward 
the old carriage-house, mumbling to herself angrily. When she was 
out of earshot, Reba spoke: "Yassum," she said in her small, meek voice. 
"Yassum, I hears you." 

She stretched her neck and peered around the trunk of the tree, but 
when her mother reached the carriage-house and went inside, she bent 
down and caught up the dangling rope. Then she straddled the limb 
and inched forward cautiously. She stopped when she reached the 
middle of the limb and looked about her. She lifted the rope and 
wrapped it around her throat, tying a knot solidly at the side. "Yas- 
sum," she said, drawing the word out interminably. "Yassum." 

Cora came away from the carriage-house and stopped beside the 
canna bed. "I knows you're hiding out someplace," she said. "I 
knows as well as I'm standing here that you hear every word I'm 
a-saying." She went back onto the porch and took a drink of water, 
throwing what was left in the dipper onto the ground with a faint 
splash. 



398 William March 

But Reba sat quietly for a time, her black knees gripping the syca- 
more limb, looking about her slowly and listening to her mother's 
voice. At that instant she had a clear picture of Cora weeping over 
her coffin, just as she had wept over the coffin of the while child. "Reba! 
Reba, come back to us!" she said over and over, her face twisted with 
the force of her grief. "Don't leave us here to mourn, sweet little 
Reba! Don't leave us this a-way, honey!" 

Then Reba drew back her head and made her foolish, intaken sound. 
"Yassum," she said softly. "Yassum." Suddenly she lifted her arms 
and swayed forward. She unlocked her knees from the limb and 
fell eagerly, the rope pulling her up and jerking her head sideways. 
At once she lifted her lathlike arms and tried to grasp the limb above 
her head, but she could not; then she jerked her body convulsively and 
made a shrill, strangled noise while the rope spun outward in a circle. 

Cora said: "I hear you, Miss. I hear you laughing and acting silly 
and provoking me!" She shook her shoulders angrily. "All right, 
stay where you is! You'll get hongry befo' long, and then I'll catch 
you!" She went inside and rattled the stove-lid, throwing in fire- 
wood. A few minutes later she came back to the porch and looked 
about her again. 

"There ain't no way to get away from me, gal," she said. "You'd 
know that by now if you had any sense." She looked straight at the 
clump of crepe-myrtles that screened the swing from the house and 
raised her voice a little, as if she addressed personally the bundle which 
hung limp and strangled at the end of the still-vibrating rope. She 
said: "When I get supper cooked I'm gwiner come look for you; and 
when I look for you I'm gwiner find you; and when I find you I'm 
gwiner give you a whupping you'll remember!" 




Wolf Hunt 

A. J. Broadwater 



NEVER having made an effort to write a story I don't expect this 
will read very good. However, I have had some great experi- 
ences in hunting, having come to Montana in 1886, when game was 
plentiful; and as I was always a great lover of hunting, I have had 
some wonderful experiences. I recall one in particular and am going 
to try to describe it. It would certainly make good reading, particu- 
larly to the young nimrods of today, if one with the proper ability 
for details of description could write it. I will, however, do the best 
I can. 

About 23 years ago, I owned a pack of 15 well-bred and well-trained 
wolf hounds, and kept 3 saddle horses, using alternately a horse and 
five dogs, to catch coyotes, whose pelts at that time were valueless as 
furs, but there was three dollars bounty paid by the State, and the 
same amount for buffalo wolves, aside from this feature as an incen- 
tive for their destruction. There is no form of hunting I have ever 
known which offers anywhere near the thrill and excitement as having 
a good pack of dogs and a good horse under your knees and sighting 
a coyote, off say half a mile. No one can fully appreciate the excite- 
ment and expectancy, but one who has experienced this form of sport. 

The Lobo or Buffalo Wolf was extremely scarce with us, even at 
this early date. This species of wolf is about the most formidable 
antagonist, when cornered, that I know of. They grow to an enormous 
size, often weighing close to two hundred pounds, and are quick as a 
cat. One of such animals I have seen kill a three-year-old steer, and 
do it quickly and easily. They can bite a cow's tail entirely off, or 
hamstring them, or a horse, as they run past them, felling them almost 
in their tracks, after which it takes only a few minutes to dispatch 
them. 

399 



400 A. J. Broadwater 

My brother Harry and I started on a certain day for our regular 
coyote hunt. I had 5 dogs (the pick of my pack) and one particu- 
larly valuable dog (Blacktail by name), very fast, a killer, and a 
particular pet of mine, whom I had often seen kill his coyote without 
assistance from the rest of the dogs; also a large hound called Wallace 
(a half boar hound and half Great Dane). Wallace never had been 
whipped by dog or beast. In fact, all of my five dogs at this time 
were of the very best. My brother also had a pack of 7 good dogs. 

We selected for our hunting grounds of this day, a large lease tract 
of about 20,000 acres, where Mr. Simon Pepin ran his winter herd 
of beef cattle. We separated upon entering this lease, Harry going 
parallel and about a mile off my route. I had ridden only about a mile 
when a band of antelope arose from sage in front of me. Off went 
my dogs in chase of them. I knew I had no dog in this pack which 
was fast enough to catch them; so there was nothing for me to do but 
await their return. I waited for possibly half or three-quarters of an 
hour, and was finally rewarded by noting them coming back. I sighted 
them about a mile off, strung out in single file. I began counting 
them to see if they were all coming back. I counted 7 dogs, and know- 
ing this was 2 more than I had, I came to the conclusion that two of 
my brother's dogs had taken up the chase of the antelopes and were 
coming back to me with my dogs. I now got out my field glasses 
and discovered the last two were Lobo wolves, following my dogs 
back. This was very exciting news to me. (I know of no other way 
of describing the sensation than to give an illustration.) You will pos- 
sibly know the sensation which seizes a fellow when he is shooting 
rabbits, and a wild turkey flies up in front of him ? Or when hunting 
deer, to suddenly behold an elk close by ? 

Well, I hurriedly got my dogs together, back-tracked them around 
a hill, and into a gorge, and there I rested them for half an hour for 
a big scrap. I was reasonably sure that the wolves, when they arrived 
at where the dogs joined me with the horse, would follow no farther, 
and expected they would lie around in the vicinity for some time. 
Having rested my dogs up, I cut across the top of a hill directly for 
the point where the dogs had arrived on return from the antelope 
chase, and found my calculations true. I found, on mounting to the top 
of the hill, lying in the coulee directly under me, one of the finest and. 
largest specimens of wolves ever seen. I yelled at the top of my lungs, 
"Take 'im, boys!" — this being the signal for the dogs to go into action, 
and you can be sure they were not slow in taking up the challenge. 



Wolf Hunt 401 

Before that wolf had run fifty feet, the dogs were upon him. I really 
expected to see pieces of that wolf scattered over an acre of ground in 
a short time, and was sorry Harry was not there to see the fight. 

Well, it was some fight, all right, but did not turn out as I expected. 
All of the dogs piled onto him at about the same time, and soon pulled 
him down. But he didn't stay down, much to my surprise. He was 
up almost as soon as down, and had grabbed one of the dogs, threw 
him ten feet, and was after another dog, trying to catch him. The 
dogs rallied again and again, but each time the air was full of dog 
hairs and yelps, keeping up a fast running fight all the time. 

At last, my best dog, Blacktail, lay badly wounded and lacerated, 
and the rest of the pack whipped to a frazzle. I never got in shooting 
distance, it was done so quick. I had my shotgun and some bird-shot 
shells along, swung under my saddle skirt, thinking I might run into 
a bunch of sage hens on the trip. 

About this time Harry came up with his fresh pack of dogs, and 
renewed my hopes; but Mr. Wolf polished off this bunch of fresh dogs 
quicker than he did mine. He ran off about half a mile, and stood 
watching us from the skyline. I looked at poor Blacktail, think I shed 
a few tears, but the anger I felt gave me an inspiration. "Harry, you 
take Blacktail on your horse down to Mild River, wash his wounds, 
and wait there for me. I'm going to kill that wolf or crack a rib." 

I was riding my top horse, Babe, half-breed Hamiltonian and cayuse, 
who had done a quarter in 26 seconds on track, and I knew was good 
for 60 miles at a gallop. The wolf proved very accommodating, and 
waited until I was within a quarter of a mile of him before starting to 
run. There was a long flat of seven miles in front of us, without a 
coulee or break. I let Babe take it rather easy for a time, and gave 
him his head. He knew exactly what I wanted him to do. For the 
first two miles his Wolfship wasn't the least worried, only occasionally 
looking back over his shoulder; but as I began to draw closer and 
closer, he put on all the speed he had, his long tongue lolled out of 
his mouth. But Babe gained steadily. I noticed in the distance some 
badlands, and made an extra effort to finish the race before we 
came to these, but without success. I raced up within thirty feet of 
him several times, and tried to shoot from the running horse, but don't 
think I came within many feet of hitting him, at any of my shots. 

I have heard and read of this feat of people who killed their game 
from a running horse. This stuff is all the bunk. The man never 



402 A. J. Broadwater 

lived who could hit a target as big as an elephant thirty feet away from 
a running horse, with a rifle or shotgun, either. They might handle a 
revolver with some little degree of accuracy, but I doubt it. 

My wolf made these badlands before I could head him off. There 
is where I should have pulled up and stopped, but it never occurred 
to me to do so. By the very greatest of good luck I rode through a 
mile of these badlands at breakneck speed, where every jump of a 
horse was courting death. I recall at one place, an almost perpen- 
dicular descent of 100 yards and a short rise of ten or twelve feet, at the 
top of which we ran right into an old crater about twelve feet across. I 
could see no bottom. We were directly on top of this, running at full 
speed, before I discovered it. There was no possible chance to stop 
or turn the horse. I recall throwing my feet out of the stirrups, think- 
ing I might grasp the edge of the crater when the horse fell into it. 
I thought this would be my last wolf chase, but that game little horse 
cleared that twelve feet of space as easily as I could step three feet. I 
knew of a water-hole a short way off, and supposed the wolf would 
make for this. When I was within twenty steps of the water-hole, I slid 
from the saddle, and ran up to the bank, looking down into the water- 
hole to see the wolf just quitting the bank on the far side. I gave him 
both gun barrels. The only effect was to turn him a cherry red in rear, 
and make him bite at himself. 

I now had to race back to the pony, as my only hope was to head 
him off before he reached some very formidable badlands, where no 
horse could go. Babe was equal to the occasion. I ran by the wolf 
just before he reached the gulch. I ran the horse about 40 yards past 
him, and slipped out of the saddle shotgun in hand. The wolf stopped 
dead still, gave me a look-over, rolled his lips back from his teeth, 
laid his ears down on his head, and charged straight at me, his mouth 
open. I was waiting for him to come within ten or twelve feet, before 
firing, as I knew if I missed he would soon finish me off. But he 
never came that close. It was all a bluff. He charged within 20 feet 
and stopped again, started to veer off around me, and I fired. The 
charge almost tore his head off. 

I did not take the measurements of this animal, as I had nothing 
to do it with, but I had often loaded 175-pound buck deer on this same 
pony, but try as I would, and I certainly worked hard and long at 
the try, I could not load this wolf on the pony. So I skinned him, or 
rather her, there. The pelt was almost as large as a yearling calf. 




Mountain Sibyl 



Nancy Clemens 



AUNT HALEY GODWIN was almost "th' death o' me," to 
use her own immortal words. Not that she took pot shots at 
me from ambush in the quaint Ozarkian way. She was more subtle. 
She used the black arts. 

When I first saw Aunt Haley she was bending over a beehive, tying 
a black cloth to the top and muttering, "She's dead. Niece Ruth is 
dead." 

Then she saw me and hobbled over to inquire what I wanted. 

"I was a-tellin' th' bees," she confided, peering at me from under a 
faded slat sunbonnet. "Alius tell th' bees when there's a death in th' 
family or they'll swarm out an' leave." 

Having been an Ozark highlander, I did not inquire why this 
dreary news would make the bees contented at home. Instead I gave 
the old lady my complete life history — in the best detailed Ozarkian 
fashion — adding that I was suffering from a nervous breakdown and 
had returned to the hills to recuperate. I said I wanted to buy fresh 
eggs and "garden truck" from her. I had faint hopes that this infor- 
mation would cause my Mother Hubbard-clad Prophet of Woe to 
lighten the general trend of her conversation. I should have known 
better. 

There is nothing mountain women like better than to sit around a 
sickbed recalling fatalities with similar symptoms. The mountaineer 
makes a dramatic episode of death and Aunt Haley could trace her 
hill heritage back through Kaintuck to North Caroliny. 

From that day on I literally lived in fear of death. Aunt Haley took 
it upon herself to protect me from the evil influences that hover over 
the superstitious Ozarks backwoods. I do not mean that she was a 
witch. Nowadays in the hills a "witch" is a woman who tells for- 

403 



404 Nancy Clemens 

tunes. Aunt Haley's "main holt" was "th' signs." She told folks 
when to plant gardens; she advised against killing hogs or building 
rail fences or putting on new clapboards in the wrong light of the 
moon. And when it came to forestalling death she was in her element. 

She called one Friday afternoon to bring me a buckeye, which would 
avert rheumatism and bring general good luck, and was horrified to 
find me making a dress. 

"I'll set right down an' baste th' seams fer you," she said. "You'll 
never on Gawd's earth git hit done afore dark if I don't pitch in an' 
holp out." 

Since I was in no hurry for the dress, sartorial standards being low in 
the hills, I could not see that this was important and said so. 

"I'm not going anywhere tonight," I said, "and anyhow I'm just 
making it to pass time." 

"You'll be a-goin' to your grave if you ain't careful," she said darkly. 
"Don't ye know that if ye cut out a dress on a Friday and don't finish 
hit th' same day ye'll die afore ye kin wear it as shore as Gawd made 
little fishes?" 

She then cheered me with the tale of Ankle Willie Benskin's eldest 
gal who cut out a Sunday-go-to-meetin' red-checkered gingham dress 
on a Friday. Ankle Willie, who was a shiftless man, had used the 
store calendar to start a fire because he was too lazy to cut kindling 
and they'd sort of lost track of time. Cally Benskin ran out of thread 
and nobody passed by going to the store; so the dress was carelessly 
put aside. The next day a mule kicked Cally in the head and she 
wore the dress as a shroud. 

"That very night th' clock struck thirteen times," Aunt Haley said 
impressively. "They knowed then whut had happened but 'twas too 
late. Th' pore child was as good as dead. They didn't even have an 
almanac for t' tell th' day 'cause Ankle Willie'd let th' mailbox fall 
plumb down." 

She sighed heavily and asked me if I didn't have any kinfolks to 
come and stay with me. It wasn't natural, she said, for a lone woman 
to live in a cabin. Anything might happen to me. The expression 
on her wrinkled-apple face showed that she was thinking of numerous 
dire fates that might befall me. However, she contented herself with 
saying that I might die in bed and not be discovered for days. 

This upset me so that I knocked over a chair. Aunt Haley looked 
sad. "Ye'll not be married within a year," she assured me. 



Mountain Sibyl 405 

"I'm always clumsy," I told her. "I dropped the broom last night 
when I was sweeping the trash out the front door. Then I almost 
sprained an ankle stepping over it." 

Aunt Haley virtually gave me up then. I had acquired bad luck 
by stepping over the broom and by sweeping at night. Furthermore 
I had swept out my luck by using the front door. 

At this appropriate moment a picture fell off the wall. I had used 
thumbtacks and the pictures were always being loosened and sliding 
to the floor. Aunt Haley said dolefully that this was a "shore sign o' 
death." 

From then on I collected so much evidence of my early demise that 
the whole business held a morbid fascination. I didn't see how I could 
live. Aunt Haley brought me an assortment of good luck charms 
varying from little crayfish pearls to Irish potatoes and rocks with 
holes in them, but everything considered I do not believe her visits 
were beneficial to my nerves. 

Once she eyed the blue crepe dress I was wearing. "That dark 
dress'd make a good buryin' outfit," she said. "I got my buryin' clothes 
all put away 'ith rose beads, my good black dress and good store-bought 
muslin underclothes with tattin' on all the edges. I'm goin' t' be put 
away decent. I've alius said you never kin tell whut's goin' t' happen 
and I want t' be ready when my time comes." 

She then told me about a man who had kept his coffin in his living 
room for fourteen years. It was made of wood from a tree cut down 
in his front yard. When its beauties were not being demonstrated to 
visitors, it made a convenient bench. 

I tried to restore my luck and my spirits by walking around a chair 
three times, according to Aunt Haley's directions. But the next day 
I went to town and in my stupidity had my hair cut after dark, which 
is very bad luck, as the village barber told me after I had paid him. 

In one horrible week, I heard a dog howl at night, a rooster crow 
at four o'clock in the morning, a hen cackle in the dooryard. I whirled 
a chair and I spilled salt. I hit an empty chair so that it rocked. I 
put a stamp upside down on a letter, a bird flew in through the win- 
dow, and Aunt Haley found a lightning bug in the house. 

"One more or one less in th' house next day," she said cheerily. 

She went back to muttering some weird incantation over a finger 
smashed when she nailed a horseshoe over my front door. I started 
to chase out the offending bug. 



406 Nancy Clemens 

"Gawdamighty, put yore shoe on," shrieked Aunt Haley, forgetting 
her wound. I was hobbling around with one foot clad only in a 
stocking. "Hits bad luck," she added. "Ever' step ye take'll be more 
bad luck. Ye stay there and I'll fetch this yere slipper." 

So I stood in the middle of the floor on one foot while she brought 
my other shoe. It was then, I think, that I began to rebel against the 
soothing qualities of the isolated valleys of the Ozarks. 

I caught a bad cold kneeling in damp grass hunting for four-leaved 
clovers after I had counted the birds in a flock resting in a near-by 
tree. It is very bad luck to count birds. I learned the same day that 
I must not kill the cat that yowled under my window all night. 

In my carelessness I forgot to fill my kerosene lamp, and it went 
out while I was reading. Aunt Haley was shocked when I told her. 

"There'll be a death in the family sartin shore," she said. "Have ye 
heerd from yore folks lately?" 

I hope I have made it clear why I defied the doctor and brought my 
nervous breakdown back to the hectic city. Now I do not hear owls 
hooting at night and wonder who is dying. I do not listen with 
fiercely beating heart to dogs howling, roosters crowing, hens cackling, 
and crows cawing. In fact I have virtually recovered. But not quite. 
The other day a friend of mine was talking of her new interest in 
quilting. 

"I had to come down town to buy a needle," she said. "I broke the 
only one I had this morning." 

I remembered Aunt Haley. "Oh, my Lord," I said. "You'll die 
before it's finished." 

She merely stared at me and edged away. But I shall hang a turkey- 
hen pulleybone over her door. And if I can find a spare tooth any- 
where I shall ask her to keep it under her pillow. 



THE COUNTRY IS THE LAND 

James Franklin Lewis 

The city is full of straights and narrows; 
But the country is broad as everywhere; 
Is broad as nowhere; 
The country is the land. 

The city is tights in angles, fits; 
But the country is copious chaos; 
Is a million-bladed space; 
The country is broad as color. 

The city is swept with wind or broom; 

Is polished as to brass; 

Is paved against the plow; 

Is paved with feet and stone; 

Is given to starks and blazing noise; 

But the country is full of whispers, 
And the trees are good talkers; 
It is broad and nowhere, 
Going its full breeze everywhere; 
The country is the land. 

And the mud sticks to the field; 
And the water-soluble lights of stars 
Lose their point in the branch creek; 
And the frogs awake on waste islands in it, 
Where the crane treads cautiously, 
And the wild geese are swans; 
At the wood-edge tips a doe, too, 
And in the cut agate of her eye 
The hard mineral peace of ages 
Somehow is mockworthy, and tender, 
As the child who wonders toward her. 



407 



408 Carol Ely Harper 

Pull out all the stops and play the city 

Into the inner alleys of its echoes; 

The city is full of straights and narrows, 

Rules for the playing of rules by rules 

And breaking them again upon their own stones; 

But the country is quiet and everywhere; 

Is quiet and nowhere; 

The country is the land. 



WASHING UP FOR SUPPER 

Carol Ely Harper 

Grey night on the grey 
sagebrush plateau 

bulk wheat no longer 
whistling rustling murmuring 

out of the two-ton 
truck into the trough the 

revolving bore struck by the 
rusted disks and lifted upwards 

the high thin pipe of the farm 
elevator into the half finished 

silver glistening grain storage 
bin, with the men still putting 

in the bolts . . . The header quiet 
in a long wing stiff out of the 

combine . . . silent on the wheat hill 
in the clipped stubble and the 



Washing Up for Supper 409 

waving wheat waiting beyond. . . . The men 
washing in pans of blackened water 

on the back steps, black faces slowly 
streaked with white and the flesh 

peering through as the dust rolls 
off and the pan cakes in mud . . . 

Men no longer lying in bulk wheat in 
the truck and in the bin and laughing 

and burrowing up to their knees and 
shoveling bulk wheat, and jumping 

to the dry ground to chase the 
two red pigs from before the truck 

wheels, and the pigs following them 
right back, and the fat hired man 

spitting tobacco juice steady, and 

the red-backed big boy with a headache 

from the sun, and all the men 
pulling, one after another, at the 

sack and twine wrapped cool 
wet water jug. 




Timber Justice 

Robert Swift 

THE TROUBLE with all this dealin' out justice," said old 
"Juniper" Hornkohl, as he scratched his sunburned hands re- 
flectively, "is that man in general don't know when he's givin' his 
brother a fair deal. Some dratted sneak thief is jest as likely to get fined 
fifty dollars and costs when he'd oughta been fed to the crows. And 
t'other way 'round, of course, of course. But she's a dinged funny 
critter, this here Lady Justice. She may be as cross-eyed as a cinnamon 
bear, an' still she has a way o' comin' around when she's least expected. 
Now I mind me the time. . . ." 

And he unfolded his arms to tell a startling tale. 

The crew of Old Crow camp, wintering in Michigan timber, had 
settled back into silence. Tired men have no lasting desire to talk. 
The day had been a hard one, for the wind drove sleet against the 
teams, and it had been cold and dangerous for sledding. 

The evening meal had been somewhat trying, especially for Juniper. 
A month-old newspaper had found its way to camp, and with it had 
come the news of an Oregon murder. Someone had stabbed Captain 
"Jack" Elting, a Michigan boy in the Manitoba Mounties, and a friend 
of them all. He had led his last raid. The murderer, if such he was, 
had escaped the law and fled. Some said he was traveling for his 
health on the Pacific, or perhaps in Mexico, and some reports located 
him in Michigan. And that had started a dispute, contrary to tradi- 
tional woods law, which ordains that meals must be eaten in silence, 
to avoid fights. Juniper loved to argue. Obliged by his responsibility 
as foreman to frown upon this serious breach of camp etiquette, he 
had suffered the full measure of a temptation to enter the argument 
himself. It had begun when "Teetotal" King, with his usual ask-me- 
I-know air, and a bold light in his eyes, said loudly, "You cain't tell 
me the guy has went to China. He came inland, I say; and fur all I 

410 



Timber Justice 411 

know, he may be right har in Michigan." He dropped his eyes when 
they all stared at him. 

But that brazen defiance of tradition, coupled with the hint of a 
murderer somewhere in the neighborhood, had been too much. Talk 
broke out, at first in guilty mumbling behind forks, then hotly up 
and down the table. Above it all rasped King's hoarse voice, as he 
tried to prove now that the murderer was in Mexico, until Juniper, 
mastering his temptation, pounded on the table and yelled, "By the 
powers! Is this a women's tea party? The next blasted weasel that 
tries to open his chops peels potatoes, d'ya hear?" 

The meal was finished more quietly, for Juniper ruled men by his 
tongue, as King could have done with his great bulk of muscle and 
bone. The table cleared, the men ventured in little groups through 
the whirling storm outside, and soon were lounging about in the 
bunkhouse near by. 

The chill and dark outside were not reflected by the interior of the 
shack. The stove glowed red-hot; the lanterns blinked in clouds of 
blue smoke rising from the pipes; the steam of the lumberjacks' sweat- 
ing bodies, the strong odor of tobacco, the acrid smell of brandy be- 
came choking. Now silence hung over the room, as it must have 
reigned in Eden before the arrival of man. 

King, called "Teetotal" because of his much-boasted aversion to "the 
Devil's drink," sat on the edge of his bunk whittling a good piece of 
kindling into shavings. Everyone knew what he would do after the 
last stick was chopped up. He would gather together all the scattered 
bits, prying into every crack of the floor for a stray splinter, carry them 
carefully to the stove and throw his handful into the blaze, "wettin' 
'em down," as he never failed to explain, with a stream of black 
tobacco-juice. Then he would wipe his mouth with the back of his 
hand, pick up another piece of shingle, and go back to his bunk. 

But nobody made the usual remark about "gettin' old an' childish" 
tonight. And King seemed to have repented his outburst at table. 
Even Juniper, who talked more than all the rest put together, only 
whistled halfheartedly through his teeth and rattled the fateful news- 
paper suggestively on his knee. Far be it from him to start another 
argument, but. . . 

Juniper was secretly lamenting the peacefulness of things. "There 
ain't," he grumbled to himself, "been a honest-to-goodness fight sence 
I hit this here hole in the ground. Lumberjacks is gettin' to be a 



412 Robert Swift 

bunch o' sissies, that's what they is!" He prepared to spit at the 
stove, but paused. 

"Teetotal" King had seen the latchstring tighten; he straightened. 
The men turned toward the door. The latch slipped up with a snap; 
and the rough plank door swung open, groaning. 

A man stepped into the room. He must have lacked five inches 
of seven feet; his round shoulders filled the doorway. His ragged, 
black beard sprawled over his chest; his head was bare; his dirty, 
coarse hair stood out and hung over his face. His body was nearly 
naked, clothed only in rags that once were shirt and trousers. His 
clenched hands seemed like two jagged rocks. But in his eyes there 
was a look that held the gaze; it was burning, wild, tensely holding. 
No one said a word. The giant stamped his feet, shook himself like 
a huge bear, and walked to a stool by the stove, all without a word. 
Still no one spoke. 

Juniper slipped to the door and closed it. The ragged stranger sat 
staring, not moving, seeming to take no notice of anyone. Cautiously 
the men relaxed and commenced to smoke. But the silence was of a 
different kind now. It seemed to rush back and forth, to beat and 
pound like the wind outside. 

Suddenly the man leaped to his feet. With a strange catlike tread 
he ran around the table and returned to the stove, pointed to the floor 
with a huge forefinger, and said, in full, deep voice that sent a cold 
stab into the heart of every man there: "Who spilled all that blood 
on the floor? ... I'm the man that killed Captain Jack!" 

A pipe dropped with a crash that rang in the following silence. 
Again he sat down; and Juniper looked at King. The man was staring 
fiercely at the intruder, a black scowl on his face, and fear in his eyes. 
He gripped the edge of his bunk, the hunting knife still in one hand. 
No one saw. No one spoke. The stranger sat and stared from terrible 
red-rimmed eyes behind the mat of his hair. No one moved. 

Again the unkempt giant hopped from his stool. With the same 
stooping trot, with a shadow, too, of a limp, he circled the table and 
came to a stop by the stove. He pointed to the floor, and the men 
stopped breathing. 

"Who spilled all that blood on the floor?" he cried, in a cracked, 
yet powerful roar that shook the room. "I'm the man that killed 
Captain Jack!" He sat down again. 



Timber Justice 413 

King jumped from his bunk. He seemed to have gone crazy. 
"That's a damned lie!" he screamed. "I killed Jack Elting!" And 
with a wild pitch of his arm, he threw the knife, and crouched tense 
and mumbling. 

With a mad echoing screech, the grimy giant kicked out the stool 
and jumped up. Buried in his shoulder was the knife, clear to the 
hilt. A leap, and he was upon King before the startled score of men 
could even rise, and with one great heave, had seized him by neck and 
knees and cracked his back across the table as easily as snapping a 
match. 

Then Juniper, his hand at the stock of his gun, made the shortest 
speech of his life. "Men," he said, in a voice that shook, "stay where 
you are!" 

The giant looked at him dully, as if not understanding. He dropped 
his great arms, looked at the crumpled body on the floor, and said in 
a weary, toneless whine, "Who spilled all that blood on the floor?" 
Then, in a huge and thundering voice that made every logroller start 
to his feet: "I'm the man that killed Captain Jack!" He strode to the 
door, the knife still hanging in his shoulder, and shoved out into the 
night. The sleet beat against the door as it closed, and the latchstring 
dropped into place. 

"You see," concluded Juniper Hornkohl, "one of them fellas killed 
Captain Jack, and I'll be hung, strung, an' quartered if I knows which 
on 'em 'twas." Then, as though he had just remembered, he spat at 
the stove. 




Good-bye, Margery 



August Derleth 



IN the dusk the streetlights came on all over town, yellow-white 
lights strung out into the copper and saffron afterflow where it 
lay against the sky below the band of emerald cradling evening 
star and new moon, pale and luminous: first only the dying day, the 
gathering evening, and then, like a secret being told, being whispered 
for one ear alone, the lights flowered, the dead globes at street corners 
came softly to radiance, a web of them over Sac Prairie held in October's 
claret and ochre leaves: and I thought, as always: There is a loneliness 
about streetlights and trees at night: soft afterglow, new moon, and 
evening star: yellow glow among the leaves, the line of bright stars 
reaching for the sun's last orange behind the hills, across the prairie. . . . 

The swing creaked like an old hinge. No matter how little I pushed 
myself, how little the arc I made, the swing creaked and groaned, and 
in the still night, in the quiet twilight hour, the sound was very loud 
against the high wall of the school building behind me. I could look 
across to where Margery lived from there, and I could wait there where 
she had told me. Even while I was thinking, There is a loneliness 
about streetlights and trees at night, I was wondering about her, why 
she had told me to come here and not to the Park Hall, where we 
could meet in deep shadow, in darkness, as always, and no one could 
know, and I kept remembering what they said at home: That girl's a 
temper; she's not for you. Don't you kjiow? Why don't you trust 
your mother? I could tell you! and Grandfather Adams saying, Be 
still! as if talking to himself in his big voice: Great God in Heaven, 
Woman, don't you hjiow that belief in his ability to ma\e up his own 
mind is one of man's most cherished delusions? Let the boy alone. 

The swing creaked; it creaked as much if I made a small arc or a 
big arc, but it was too hard to sit still, the impatience in me and 
wonder, and something else: a nameless, blind wanting, a desire for 

414 



Good-bye, Margery 415 

afterglow, new moon, and streetlights, a fierce acceptance of the loneli- 
ness that lay along streets and walks, trees, spent lilac bushes, lemon 
bulbs of light, old houses: something I did not understand, but only 
felt; something bound to me, something always mine: something that 
made me the night's growing dark itself, the sweet smell of leaf-fire 
smoke drifting through town, the tremulous sad cry of a screech owl 
calling behind the old Park Hall where otherwise I waited. 

The house was dark, but for a faint line of light seen through the 
front-room windows from where the kitchen door stood ajar, and I 
could see her as if no wall were there: washing dishes, her yellow hair 
pushed up along the back of her head, thick and heavy, her pale blue 
eyes quiet and tender, the rich, full mouth still; I could see her work 
in silence, and her big-bosomed mother drying dishes at her side, her 
father reading the Capital Times, shaking his head over it: The paper 
ain't what it used to be since Old Bob La Follette died. It was too bad 
he had to go; he worked too hard. 

A wind grew out of the southwest, where the moon's thin blade lay 
on the trees: first small breezes scuttering the dry leaves along the 
ground, and then a stronger wind, a wind that tore at the dying foliage, 
that talked and murmured among limbs and began to sway the street- 
lights gently, the yellow glow swinging over the road and up dark 
boles of trees on the other side and back again. I could feel the lone- 
liness mushrooming up inside me again, the lost feeling, as if there 
were something sweet and dear very far away, but still in sight, and 
some part of me tried always in vain to reach it again and urge it back 
to me: like the fading afterglow and the long line of lights stretching 
and dwindling into the copper fire along the hills. 

Then I saw her come down the steps and cross under the light. She 
was dressed differently, and I knew something was wrong. I stopped 
swinging and sat very still, so still I hesitated to draw a breath lest I 
bring her closer and give life to the sudden sharp fear I felt. For a 
moment, after she had left the glow of the light and walked in shadow, 
I thought, Nothing is changed, and then she came up to me, and I saw 
that she was dressed in her Sunday dress, and her cheeks were rouged. 

"You don't have to put on that stuff to look good," I said. 

She sat down in the swing next to mine and put her hands together 
in her lap. 

"What's the matter?" I asked. 



416 August Derleth 

The way she looked at me was strange, as if she were somebody 
else and I, too, different. "I can't go walking tonight," she said. 

"What's the matter?" I asked again, feeling the quick upthrust of 
fear once more. "Has somebody been talking to your mother again?" 
God damn these gossiping women! I thought, and remembered the 
time somebody had told her mother I had been acting li\e a man 
toward Margery. 

"No, Mother didn't say anything." 

"Then what is it?" 

"I'm going somewhere else," she said. "I thought I'd better tell you." 

"Oh, if that's all," I said. But the relief did not come. I looked at 
her again. "But what are you made up for?" 

"I thought maybe. . . ." She looked down and away. "I'm going out 
with somebody else — with Orin." 

I was too surprised to say anything. If it had been anybody else, it 
wouldn't have meant so much, but everybody knew what Orin was: 
a good fellow, but not her kind, not my kind. Telling me that was 
like pouring cold water over me. I didn't feel bad, then; I got out 
of myself and looked at us, and I began to think of how my grandfather 
Grendon had once said, He will be a rational man, but perhaps never 
happy. 

"You don't care, do you?" she asked. 

"You know I care," I said. 

"It won't make any difference between us, will it?" 

"Yes, it will make a difference," I said. "It will make all the differ- 
ence. You know we agreed, you know what we agreed ; we don't have 
to talk about it now. You can remember it as well as I can." 

"But it's so foolish," she said. "Seeing just each other like this." 

"Maybe. But that's how I feel about it. We talked it over, and you 
felt that way then, too." 

I thought: // it happens once, it will happen again. If it hurts me 
once, it will hurt me again, and I knew it must not be. Better the once 
and an ending and never the chance for it to happen again. 

She stood up and came close to me and I stood up too, put my arms 
around her, and kissed her gently on the mouth. It was not the same. 
It would never be the same again. I remembered all the other times 
I had kissed her: that first time on the high-school steps in the shadow 
of the lilac bush, with the lavender blooms hanging low, in the car, 
at the school picnic behind the bandstand just when the moon was 



Good-bye, Margery 417 

pushing up into the sky, and all those times on the hills; all those 
times knowing no one else had ever kissed her; she was mine alone, 
and I was hers. It would never be that way again. 

I saw the car drive up before her home and I said, "There's Orin. 
You'd better go." 

She kissed me quickly and looked at me with eyes a little doubtful, 
her forehead puckered. "Good night, Steve," she whispered. 

"Good-bye, Margery," I said. 

I watched her get into his car and go away with him, and I knew 
that no matter what happened, it would never be the same again. I 
could take her in my arms; I could kiss her; I could tell her, I love you, 
Margeiy; but it would be hollow, it would not be like once it was, and 
after a while, the queer, strange place, the empty place would no longer 
echo with memories. 

I sat down in the swing, and it creaked as before. I sat still again. 
Down the west, the moon was a red sickle, broken by limbs of trees, 
and the sky glowed there with a luminous rose and saffron. Back and 
forth, the branches swung before the streetlights, bowing and scraping 
in the wind, and leaves tore away and went dancing down darkness 
to the ground, where they rustled along ditches, among bushes, down 
the streets and lanes. Good-bye, Margery. The dullness grew into 
pain ; the hurt swelled and grew. Good-bye, Margery. I knew how it 
would be now, remembering how it had been: the way her lips could 
part and smile, the way her eyes took the white stars of spikenard 
when we found them on the hill slopes, the way darkness held her 
face and made it a symbol of all strange, unknown things. He will be 
a rational man, but perhaps never happy. I was not sure what Grand- 
father Grendon had meant, but I knew this was right: If she could 
not keep this faith, she would keep none. 

The swing creaked and groaned. I got up and walked slowly out 
of the deserted schoolyard. All around me the night whispered: 
rustling leaves, an owl crying, limbs rubbing against each other, and 
the village sounds. The wind blew, and the streetlights swung to 
and fro, and the leaves whirled and raced in the yellow glow on the 
street below them. There is a loneliness about streetlights and trees 
at night: Lemon lights, dark, trees, far sky and stars: and wind that 
blows over all the earth, a wanderer, too, alone. I went down the 
shadowed streets with this dark hurt inside me; I went to the Park 
Hall and the bandstand and all those other places I had been with her, 



418 August Derleth 

and it was like saying Good-bye, Margery to everyone, the knowledge 
of an end within me, and how it must be. I remembered how we had 
talked about it a long time ago, both of us loving; it was as if we had 
said to each other, / will not hurt you, if you will not hurt me, both of 
us fearing above all else the fierce, tearing hurt that comes with dis- 
illusionment and sorrow in first love. 

I went home and stood looking out toward the prairie, along the 
line of swaying streetlights, the lemon glow, and the bending trees, and 
I thought: Nothing can take this away from me, and the hurt pushed 
upward again, the terrifying loneliness, unreasoning, painful, with a 
blind onrushing that stung and smarted. Good-bye, Margery. Stand- 
ing there in the wind, I remembered Grandfather Grendon again, the 
way he had sat in the glow of the green-shaded light over his kitchen 
table looking at me but speaking to my father, He will be a rational 
man, but perhaps never happy, as if he could know how it is to feel 
the quiet, eternal loneliness of streetlights and trees at night, and wind, 
as if he could know that to be rational is to be alone. 

Good-bye, Margery. 

I did not want to go into the house; I did not want to leave the wind 
blowing against me and the hurt that kept welling up into my throat 
from within and without. I knew the way Mother would look up 
and ask, Were you with her again? How many times have I told you? 
and how Grandfather Adams would interrupt his reading to say, Great 
God in Heaven, let the boy alone! 



COLORADO POEMS 

Will Gibson 

LITTLE ELEGY 

Now, as all roots call in their saps, and hung 
in joy, in fear 
each haunted leaf hears ebb its lock, 
and tongue cries far to tongue 
this year, this year 

call in our loves: let finger and twig go dry 
come snow, come deer 
across our heelprints dumb in the rock: 
for loves and leaf must die, 
this year, this year. 



A LETTER FROM COLORADO 

Night, the fog is laired in ravine, lake, foothill, 

the valley rank and laden, leaf dumb 
In dull air, no moon and star above humpback toil 

upon humpback ridge: secretly limb 

and needle are drinking, finch and egg in the climb 

of firs now sleep, small herds of deer 
in the hemlock floors are hid, and the gopher is home 

in the roots: the fog stirs not a hair: 

all sleep, all sleep, but out on this rock, not hid, 

not home, with hag and witch, I keep 

a moonless watch by the slag 

of the fire, laired in my ills, unroofed in my love, 
dumb in this kithless range of hills, 
far, inhuman, and strange. 

419 



420 Will Gibson 

GOPHER SKULL 

Delicate, small as a nut, hollow and white, 

whole in the grass, in the pick 
and tug of ants, in winds that sift and suck 

the gums in the socket, in light 

that dries the cranial yolk, this house is frail 

and emptied. Here is the ruin 
you hied and digged and hid in the earth at noon 

from heel and hawk, flickertail, 

to wriggle away from: house, is it ill? or spent 

witling out of this acorn skull, 
is here a lodging to haunt ? come back to ? coil 

as tenant now in this rackrent 

bone, when pine needles fell as spears, the fox 
overcrept the moon, and my wheedling 

roared like rockslide in all your mines ? Deed 
to the roots your waters, the locks 

and doors hang broken, be loose in this air, dumb, 

at home from decision, be hill, 
be fir, be light: while hasped in my bone I tell 

of our fear, and will not come: 

house, is it ill? 



HYMN ON THATCHTOP 

Dumb, be dumb on this eyebrow, kneel on the hair 

and rock of his height 
where cliff and shoulder fall by lair, hawk's nest, 

ledge, and the rivers 
reel in his palm: like sheaf and shock, his mountains 

are gathered in boulder 
by boulder below, their timber is green nap, fat coil 

and reef of his cloud 



Colorado Poems 421 

hang quiet in gap and ravine: in these upper races 

of lights and the winds, 
the hawk in space is moored and level, and veers 

in careen, and drops 
like a keepsake let cry in the giant wake of air 

far down in jackstraw 
and bed of gorge: and the eye of the lake is open: 

lean where his flesh 
allays, be dumb, kneel giddy, be dumb on this godhead, 

dumb with his praise. 



MOUNTAIN SONG 

Eye at these hills now sucks, 

and not allays 
its drouth in freshfall gullies 

by doe and buck, 

and hand on this rock may hit, 

and dig no relief 
of its hunger out of the reef 

where gophers sit, 

and tongue is tied too wordless 

to loose its fill: 
hid in the loin of these hills, 

of bark, of bird, 

are the lode, waters, and cry 

I need, I need 
and cannot dig, tell, or feed. 

Time will be 

when eye will brim far below, 

and hand lie deep, 
and tongue sing out in the sap: 

but how will I know ? 



422 Will Gibson 

A LITTLE BESTIARY 

At night in my ear the fawn pigeon flew 

moaning in love for her egg 
in the lock of my temple, witching in hue 

and cry, dazzled my sense, begged, 

and I opened my ear: now come to the coil 

of nest, all her sly witchery 
settled to fop, cluck, idiot eye: dull, 

loveless, unfed, lechery's 

fool, when in daylight I looked, in my hand 

sat the humpback, ugly as noon, 
immobile toad: talisman out of the raw land 

of unlove, stranger, oppugner, 

I took him to heart: where in he distilled 

his delicate poisons, clear 
and medicinal, keen in my veins, killing 

my pigeon, my liar, my fear. 

"ROCK SAID, OLD GIANTS" 

Rock said, old giants are in me, and roar in my hollows, 
roofs, and beds: their knees crack me open, 

raw hills ride up on their necks, my saps and marrows 
in rivers leak out of flanks and slopes : 

bone said, devils are in me, and lechers, 

salts and tongues: my fill 
is the fats of eels and slimes of witches 

in conjugal ferns and pools: 

rock said, doomsday is at me, the wind has its hooks 
in my boughs and barks, rains in me crawl 

and great antlers of ice in me uproot my ribs in breaks, 
gorges and cliffs: I am ill, I am ill: 



Colorado Poems 423 

bone said, I am sick with my salt, loves 

in me crawl and lick and cry, 
I am lack, I am glutless: beggar of salves, 

starveling, wild with decay: 

rock cried, now groins break, gut flows, winter over us 

gathers: bowelled of travail, no cure, 
no cure, how long must we lie, and none to deliver us ? 

Bone rasped on bone, and said, endure. 



TIMBERLINE 

Gorgeful in gorgeful below me, pine, spruce, and fir, 

the wilderness climbs, lush in creek 
and bald at rock, but gathers its rank reach, floor 

in mosses of timber to canyon cheek, 

and dies at my heel. Here is the witchland of freak 

growth, dwarf hags of wood, barkless 
6nake runs of tree, blight scarecrows in bough shrieks 

from windward, famine choir, that marks 

where decision ends. Ahead lie the disasters of rocks, 

boulderfields, granite floe beneath floe, 
rockslide, rockslide, immobile flint neutrals, lackless, 

loveless, moors of big barebacks, and no 

live roothold of choice : rock peace, rock peace, to grow 

red thrifts of lichen rust. It is clear 
these twistwood cripples appoint me down. I must go 

in matted stuntpine by no trail, hearing 

nightfall of waters, by low fern, by log, along moss tier 
and edge, by foot feel in limb drop decay, 

kithward by creek flow, down, down, where abed in the year 
love glides its root, and the leaf is dismay. 




A Thresher's Tale 



Rudolph Umland 



YES, son, I'm too old to run a rig now. Time brings changes. 
I'm an old man, and when I think back over all the changes 
I've seen, I feel my years. It saddens me to think of some of the 
changes I've seen. 

Time was when a man had no trouble at all following the wheat 
harvest from Texas to the Dakotas and making a few dollars. That 
was when all wheat was cut with a binder, shocked, stacked sometimes, 
and then threshed. Farmers needed many hands during the harvesting 
season. Now combine machines that cut and thresh the grain in one 
operation are becoming more common every year. Farmers need 
fewer and fewer hands. One of the migratory hands that used to come 
up through this part of Nebraska was Frank McDarmit — Big Frank, 
we called him. He was a bundle-slinger if ever there was one. 

The first time I had dealings with Big Frank, he took twenty dollars 
from me easy as nothing. I had just finished cutting fifty acres of 
wheat that I wanted shocked right away. I was afraid a rainy spell of 
weather might come along and spoil some of the grain. That was the 
finest field of wheat I ever raised ; the bundles lay scattered three-deep 
over every inch of stubble. I hired Big Frank in the morning and told 
him I'd go to town and fetch some other shockers to help him. 

Big Frank looked over the field, spat some tobacco juice, and said, 
"I don't need any help. I can shock that field myself and be finished 
by sundown." 

"You're crazy," I said. 

"Maybe I am," he said, "but I can still shock that field myself and 
be finished by sundown." 

"Man, you can't." 

"I can." 

424 



A Thresher's Tale 425 

I looked at him and wondered what institution he'd escaped from. 

Til bet you ten dollars I can," he said. 

"I'll bet twenty you can't." 

Big Frank spat on his hands, pulled on his gloves, and went to work. 
I never saw a bundle-slinger move so fast before. In less than an hour, 
I knew I was going to lose that bet. 

Bis Frank could shock wheat faster than any two binders could 
kick out the bundles. He could set up a shock ten feet away by just 
tossing the bundles where they belonged. Sometimes he'd pick up 
eight or ten bundles at once, set them down, and have as pretty a 
shock as you ever saw. No matter how hard a windstorm blew, Big 
Frank's shocks kept standing. He could hurl a bundle butt into the 
ground so deep that nobody could pull it up. He frequently did this 
out of pure orneriness to make the threshers cuss when they were 
gathering the bundles. 

He was a one, that Big Frank ! He never hired out as a shocker by 
the day. He always demanded pay by the acre. He wouldn't work in 
a field where there were other shockers; they got in his way. Why, 
damn it, he wouldn't even start shocking in a field where the grain 
wasn't all cut; he'd catch up with the binder in no time and then have 
to wait. 

When Big Frank blew into a community, other hands moved on. 
They knew there wouldn't be much work left for them. All the 
farmers wanted to hire Big Frank. He was such a handy man to have 
around. The womenfolk liked him too; that's why there are so many 
youngsters named Frank in this part of the country. Big Frank had 
only one bad fault. Summer after summer he made the ensilage spoil 
in silos. It took the farmers several years before they discovered that 
Big Frank was to blame for this. Old Sam Bates, my neighbor, rose 
early one morning and found Big Frank sound asleep at the foot of 
his silo with a straw in his mouth that had some brown juice on it. 
Old Sam shook him and shook him but he couldn't get him wakened. 
Then he sniffed the straw. Corn juice! Big Frank had been boring 
small holes in the bottom of the silo and sucking out the juice from 
the ensilage. When he finally woke from his stupor he was as shame- 
faced as a schoolboy caught in a bad act. But the next night he did 
the same thing. He couldn't be broke of the habit. Old Sam Bates 
was mad at first; then he became curious. After tasting the juice 
himself, he didn't blame Big Frank anymore. In fact he slept at the 



426 Rudolph Umland 

foot of silos himself. That was during prohibition and fermented corn 
juice tasted mighty good. All the silos in the neighborhood soon had 
little holes bored in them. 

The first years Big Frank came here, he used to move north as soon 
as the wheat was all in shock. Then one year he stayed to help thresh. 
It was a sight to see him load a rack. He heaved entire shocks into 
the rack and in only a few minutes had bundles piled so high that you 
had to crane your neck to see the top of the load. Sam Bates and I 
ran the rig. Old Sam kept the engine running at full speed while I 
squirted oil in all the cracks and crannies of the separator so the con- 
traption wouldn't take fire. It took only two throws for Big Frank 
to have his rack unloaded, but the separator would still be choking and 
sputtering and spitting out straw and chaff from that load when Big 
Frank would be returning with his next. The other bundle-haulers 
quit as soon as they found that Big Frank didn't need any help. He 
could haul bundles and keep engine and separator going at full speed 
all the while himself. He was a bundle-slinger, that fellow! 

Sam Bates, Big Frank, and I made up a three-man threshing outfit. 
We went from farm to farm and threshed all the wheat in the county 
that summer. Our little separator kept ten wagons busy hauling away 
the threshed grain to granaries and elevators. The next year we bought 
a larger separator and kept twenty wagons busy. We threshed out 
seven Nebraska counties that year and two in South Dakota. Big 
Frank became better and better all the time. He pitched bundles so 
fast that our separator couldn't keep up with him. Old Sam and I got 
our heads together and agreed that something had to be done. We'd 
have to get a still larger separator. The next year we bought the largest 
separator on the market. It was a beauty! You probably won't be- 
lieve me when I tell you, but we kept thirty wagons busy that year 
hauling away the threshed grain. We threshed out nineteen Nebraska 
counties and fifteen more in the Dakotas. Big Frank had to work hard 
to keep up with the separator at first but he always remained in good 
humor. As long as there was a silo somewhere near, Big Frank was 
contented. He would curl up beside it at night, suck corn juice, and 
get a good sleep. We never threshed in a county that didn't have at 
least half a dozen silos. 

Big Frank was a playful fellow. The second year that we had our 
big separator he managed to find time between loads to play "toss" 
with the grain-haulers. This was a sport he really enjoyed; you could 



A Thresher's Tale 427 

hear his booming laughter three miles away. He'd pick out the heaviest 
hauler — usually a fat Bohemian or German weighing over two hundred 
pounds — take him by the scruff of the neck and throw him to the top 
of the strawstack. When the stack was fifty feet high it was something 
to see that hauler come rolling down, kicking up the straw, his legs 
and arms flying. Ho-ho-ho! Big Frank would roar. Once Big Frank 
miscalculated the distance and threw a hauler directly under the blower. 
Before Sam Bates could stop the engine the poor fellow had been 
covered up with so much straw that it took two hours to dig him out. 

Big Frank got so he wanted more and more time to play "toss." One 
day he pitched bundles so fast into the separator that he choked it up. 
That hurt me. I don't know anything that hurts a separator-man's 
pride more than to have someone do that very thing. Of course I had 
to clean out the separator and, while I was doing that, Big Frank played 
"toss." After that, whenever Big Frank felt the urge to play come 
over him, he'd choke up the separator. Sam Bates and I got our heads 
together and agreed that something had to be done again. 

The next year we bought another separator and engine and operated 
two rigs side by side. Big Frank drove his rack between the separators 
and pitched bundles first into the feeder of one, then into the feeder 
of the other. He had his hands really full now trying to keep up 
with two separators. No time for m